HBO Max’s Tech Team Is Building on HBO Now Success

HBO Max will mark the first time that WarnerMedia?s historically siloed brands are available under one roof. Wonder Woman will commune with Jon Snow and Rachel Green. The multibillion effort will allow HBO, CNN, TNT and Warner Bros. to compete directly with Netflix.?

But the AT&T-owned company is among the last in a string of legacy media companies adapting to a streaming future. Disney debuted Disney+ in November and NBCUniversal soft launched Peacock in April. WarnerMedia?s efforts were stalled by the lengthy review of AT&T?s $85 billion acquisition of the company formerly known as Time Warner. Planning on what would become HBO Max began in earnest near the end of 2018.?

Fortunately there was an existing framework for HBO Max: five-year-old standalone streamer HBO Now. There was some debate over whether WarnerMedia would use the same technical backbone to build HBO Max, an infrastructure that handled some 4.7 million concurrent video streams during the finale of?Game of Thrones.

HBO Now is a pre-built product that the HBO Max team knew could handle the stress of a large audience. There are millions of people already using HBO Now and HBO Go. HBO will need to find a way to lure those preexisting HBO Now customers to sign up for a new product. WarnerMedia has decided to essentially upgrade HBO subscribers to HBO Max at no extra cost. (HBO Max is priced at $15 per month, which is also the standard price of an HBO subscription.)

WarnerMedia is looking to have 50 million HBO Max subscribers in the U.S. by 2025. Those preexisting customers will be central to helping the company reach that goal. But HBO Max will be the first major streaming service to launch amid the pandemic, so there is little roadmap for how consumers will respond. (Quibi launched its mobile-only product in early April.) TV viewing ? especially streaming ? is up compared with before the pandemic but consumption levels have been slowly falling as shelter-in-place becomes routine. 

In the lead up to launch, the HBO Max team were running final tests, looking for bugs and making sure that there are no obvious problems before shipping the app to Apple, Google and other distribution platforms. They are looking to avoid the kind of glitches that felled Disney+ during the early hours of its launch. (Disney blamed the technical issues on high demand that “exceeded our high expectations.”)

HBO Max team has already begun preparations to start rolling the service out internationally. WarnerMedia also has plans to eventually introduce an ad-supported version of HBO Max and to turn on live streaming capabilities.