HBO Max with ads will cost users $9.99 a month. WarnerMedia made the official announcement about the new price tier for the ad-supported version of HBO Max during its upfront presentation today, while also revealing that the new version of the streaming service will launch in the US market in the first week of June. At $9.99/month, the ad-supported version of HBO Max will cost subscribers 33% less than the current ad-free version, which is priced at $14.99/month. According to WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, the ads on HBO Max will be "the most brand-safe, elegant experience for advertisers," there is in the streaming industry.
As for consumers? WarnerMedia wants them to know that subscribing for the ad-supported version of HBO Max won't turn into a nightmare for viewers; ad sales head JP Colaco promised that the HBO Max ads will be the "lightest ad load in the industry." There are no further details on what that statement means in terms of how many ads will run per hour on HBO Max, but it's a bold statement that the service will have to live up to, now.
Back in the spring, we heard reports that HBO Max with ads would shoot for a $9.99/mo price point, and also that early June was the target launch date, both of which are now confirmed. At the same time, it was also rumored that WarnerMedia had tried for a $4.99 version of HBO Max (to rival NBCUniversal's Peacock), but couldn't make the numbers work.
There are some important caveats that come with the lower-cost version of HBO Max, though. One big one is that users of the ad-supported version will not have access to Warner Bros. same-day streaming releases of blockbuster theatrical movies (like Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, or upcoming features like The Suicide Squad and Dune). That same-day theatrical/streaming release strategy is only running through 2021 (as movie theater chains slowly re-open to mass audiences); otherwise, the HBO Max content will be the same for viewers of both ad and non-ad version of the streaming service. Subscribers to the lower-cost version of HBO Max will also not have to worry about ads being inserted into HBO original programming, as that content has always been offered ad-free through the original HBO premium channel.
WarnerMedia is apparently also looking at new ways to implement ads into streaming content. Advertisers will be offered "brand blocks" of content that will secure their exclusive ad space while limiting how many times viewers must stop for ads (i.e., longer more elaborate commercials played fewer times during content viewing). Other ideas like Hulu's "pause ads" (ads run when content is paused) and "branded discovery" (ads run through the content search UI) will also be rolled out down the line.
HBO Max with ads will launch the first week of June, at $9.99/mo for subscribers.