The new HBO Max streaming service has discontinued its free trials, reports Variety. The streaming subscription service launched May 27, offering seven-day free trials to entice cord cutters and other streamers the opportunity to sample HBO Max content before subscribing at $14.99 a month. At launch, the direct-to-consumer streaming service offered subscribers more than 10,000 hours of content including HBO Originals, a catalog of licensed content, and shows and movies owned by parent company WarnerMedia and the Warner Bros. studio.
Streaming viewers can take advantage of a special deal to sign up now through January 15, 2021. HBO Max is offering a 22% discount to new and returning subscribers who pre-pay for six months at a cost of $69.99, which works out to be about $11.67 per month compared to $89.94 for six months at the normal price of $14.99 per month, not including tax.
Third streaming service to cancel free trials
HBO Max is the third major streaming service to end free trials this year. Disney+ was the first, discontinuing its seven-day free trials in June, just ahead of its release of Hamilton. Netflix canceled its free trials in October. The key difference among the three streaming services who have discontinued free trials is that Netflix offers a limited selection of rotating content for free at https://netflix.com/watch-free.
In related news, last week WarnerMedia announced that its 2021 slate of movies will be released in movie theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service the same day. The movie premieres on HBO Max will not cost anything extra.
The 2021 movie slate includes 17 feature films: The Little Things, Judas and the Black Messiah, Tom & Jerry, Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, Those Who Wish Me Dead, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, In The Heights, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Suicide Squad, Reminiscence, Malignant, Dune, The Many Saints of Newark, King Richard, Cry Macho and Matrix 4.
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New strategy starts with release of Wonder Woman 1984
This new strategy begins on Christmas Day when Wonder Woman 1984 is release. Jason Kilar, WarnerMedia CEO, explained the reason for the shift in business strategy.
“We are, of course, in an extraordinary moment. This entails a patchwork of regulations, geographic considerations and, most importantly, fan preferences. With that in mind, we see an opportunity to do something firmly focused on the fans: give them the power to choose between going to their local cinema or opening HBO Max. Super-fans will likely choose both,” Kilar said.
“This incredible movie will be available both ways on the exact same day. If you are fortunate to live in a place where theaters are open, we believe we are offering a great option given the Cinema Safe protocols our partners have put in place. With this, exhibitors are offering a movie-going experience with social distancing, masks, cleaning and ventilation protocols. On the other hand, if you and your family prefer to stay in and make your own popcorn this holiday, we want to share the experience of Wonder Woman 1984 with you the exact same day on HBO Max. It’s your decision to make,” added Kilar.
Kilar noted that, because of the pandemic, WarnerMedia has adjusted expectations in terms of movie theater revenue. In 2017, 4 million fans watched the first Wonder Woman movie in theaters. Measuring the popularity of Wonder Woman 1984 will be a combination of measuring streaming data as well as looking at theater revenue.
The discontinuation of free trials is a new trend among streaming services, including two of the newest services – Disney+ and HBO Max. Disney-owned Hulu offers a 30-day free trial, but Disney-owned ESPN+ does not. This is an interesting time to discontinue free trials, since so many Americans are on lockdown or are sheltering in place voluntarily. The streaming services have a captive audience.
At the same time, a subset of consumers are “professional trial-ers” meaning they view as much content as possible during the free trial, then cancel and move to another service. With all the streaming services currently available, a viewer could go months without paying anything for streaming content. The streaming services have to cover their costs and have money to invest in new content, so we can see their side of things. We just question the timing a bit. Is this the right time to discontinue free trials?