For decades, brand HBO has always been ad-free on its traditional, linear premium cable TV channels. Even those who didn’t frequent HBO, might know the brand's theme: “It’s not TV: It’s HBO.”
That suggests more than no advertising. It also means racy, perhaps violent, sex-themed, in-your-face content -- material that marketers typically avoid.
So what changed? Here is what has been tossed around for a potential ad-supported HBO Max -- at least according to what long-time consumers might expect from an industry survey: a two-pronged approach.
Those HBO-centric TV shows, movies and other content, run no advertising. So “Game of Thrones" and “The Sopranos” can continue to run in their unedited pure form. Again, shows many advertisers might avoid. Still, advertising might appear before and after -- not during a TV episode.
However, in other content -- such as those TV shows linked to longtime WarnerMedia Turner ad-supported networks -- TNT, TBS, truTV, and CNN -- they could continue to have advertising during a show, just like they did when airing on traditional, linear TV networks. Viewers would expect that.
But when it comes to movies running on ad-free channels -- such as TCM, the longtime, ad-free Turner classic movie channel, some paid messaging could also appear, according to reports.
Overall, it’s not surprising advertising inventory will be similar to most slimmed-down premium TV platforms -- around four minutes per hour of commercials, but perhaps only two minutes at other times.
WarnerMedia says HBO ended the second quarter with 36.3 million HBO and HBO Max subscribers, up from 34.6 million HBO subscribers at the end of 2019. That doesn’t sound like an improvement for HBO Max.
Perhaps, the $14.99 a month HBO Max price tag is the issue. HBO Max just started a few months ago.
Now a cheaper version would significantly lift those subscriber numbers -- which could give marketers scale to consider it, to some degree.
Expect something different: It’s not TV. It’s not even HBO. An HBO Max mashup suggests something else.