AT&T may not be the owner of HBO Max anymore but it will continue to offer the streaming service as part of its future bundles.
The new agreement announced Thursday comes after the Dallas-based telecommunications giant quietly stopped including HBO Max as part of the bundle on its top unlimited wireless plan last month. It had been a key part of the company’s promotions.
The future of the streaming perk first came into question after AT&T spun off HBO parent company WarnerMedia in April in a merger with Discovery. Since AT&T was no longer the owner of HBO Max, internet and mobility customers wondered if the service would be dropped from plans.
But on a call with investors in July, AT&T CEO John Stankey said the company was experimenting with offering different perks and may bring HBO Max back in the future.
“We felt that, this quarter, and where we stood, that working on things like more generous hotspot capabilities and better roaming moving into the summer might be a better play in the market,” he said on the call. “And I would tell you, we kind of like what we saw in our results.”
Customers who gained access to HBO Max through past plans have continued to receive access to it and aren’t affected by the new agreement, said AT&T spokesman Fletcher Cook. When asked about details on the new plans and when they would be available, Cook said the company has no further information to publicize yet.
On the call with investors last month, Stankey said he thinks entertainment will be part of wireless bundles for a long time. “Certain customers resonate with it,” he said.
The new agreement follows Warner Bros. Discovery’s announcement on Thursday that HBO Max and Discovery+ would launch as a combined service in the US next summer. The company said it had about 92 million streaming subscribers across HBO Max and Discovery+, representing a 1.7 million increase from the previous quarter. It expects to reach 130 million subscribers in 2025.
Speaking to investors and analysts, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said the combined company would value quality over quantity when it comes to content — a perceived criticism of AT&T’s past strategy.
“Owning the content that really resonates with people is much more important than just having lots of content,” Zaslav said. “In other words, at a time when almost every piece of content ever made is available to consumers across any number of free and paid services, curation, quality and brand have never been more important.”
Warner Bros. Discovery is hoping to win big in an increasingly competitive space. Last month, Netflix announced that it lost 970,000 subscribers over the previous three months, leaving it with about 220.7 million subscribers. Paramount+ has about 43 million subscribers, and Disney+ is at 138 million subscribers.