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Everything we didn’t know about HBO Max, exposed: we spoke to Christina Sulebakk, CEO of HBO Europe

The recent presentation of content and plans for Spain by HBO Max has put an end to many of the doubts we had about this conversion of the Warner platform in your first steps through Europe. But we still had some more specific doubts about how HBO Spain will transform into HBO Max and how that will affect the content that is already on the platform.

To specify all these data we have talked with Christina Sulebakk, CEO of HBO Max in Europe, who has answered many of our doubts and gives us a more specific approach to the peculiarities of the platform. These are all the secrets of HBO Max for his next arrival in Spain on October 26.

Why is HBO Max replacing HBO Spain, is it simply a name change or will there also be a change in strategy?

It is not a mere brand name change. It is a completely new service. In Spain, all HBO Spain customers will have HBO Max automatically, through the web or Vodafone. That implies that we move to a new technology for the platform, a much more advanced one. It is the one we use in the United States and in Latin America, and it is a much more sophisticated platform, with deeper functions, and which also offers more content for the viewer.

Consumers of the platform will have access to more catalog, and the appearance of the platform will also be completely renewed, affecting even superficial aspects such as colors (now HBO has a very sober appearance, in black and white, which in HBO Max is amplified with a more energetic and playful approach to content, and therefore the visual aspect takes purple tones).

Why did you start with Spain, of all the Nordic countries?

Spain and the Nordic countries are the areas where we started with HBO, so we already had a business model. It also depends on the technology of the platform. From here we have a very ambitious expansion model, with seven countries next year, and then we will move on to other territories outside of Europe.

What are the news from the catalog point of view?

For the first time, we will bundle all Warner Media content into one service for the first time. When the viewer opens the application for the first time, they will find five different sections of content: Warner Brothers, Cartoon Network, DC Universe, HBO Originals and Max Originals. There will also be sections for Adult Swim animation for adults, and also Turner Movies, although we are not going to give you a specific section on the platform, since it is included in the Warner catalog.

We are going to bring the vast majority of the Warner Brothers catalog (not all, but almost, with very few exceptions), so viewers will perceive a very large increase in the catalog fund from day one, which will grow with the passage of time. weather.

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Is HBO Max expected to be a model with only Warner content and own productions or will it continue to buy licensed content as HBO has done so far?

All content from third parties that is currently on HBO Spain, as well as all family content from HBO Kids, where material from very different sources has been purchased, will continue on HBO. We will continue to acquire material of this type, but our intention is to focus on the Warner Media catalog, especially Warner Bros. There is so much material from the company’s catalog, from series like ‘Big Bang Theory’ or ‘Friends’ to classics of everything type, that we are going to take advantage of it.

Over the years we have been selling content to other platforms, including Netflix: it is a hundred years of storytelling, and we have a rich legacy that we have been sharing with other platforms, and it has been carried out in very different types of relationships . And while it is a pleasure to now have the vast majority of Warner Media’s catalog at our disposal, deals of this kind will continue to take place.

hbo max
hbo max

We know that the window of transition from rooms to streaming will be reduced to just 45 days. What can you tell us about that decision?

It is an example of content that will remain exclusive on HBO Max: Warner’s next releases will arrive on the platform 45 days after their theatrical release, and it is a measure that will be effective in Spain from January 1. It is one of the most important strategies that we are going to follow, instead of selling that window to other platforms.

What do you think the parties most affected by that window clipping, such as traditional exhibitors and movie theaters, will think?

As Warner Media, we have a large number of businesses tied to theatrical distribution, it is a very lucrative part of our business. If you ask me, I have always believed in the importance of cinemas, I believe in the importance of seeing great films in those spaces as the first place for exhibition. But I also think that waiting nine months to see a movie on other platforms and other screens is a very big window. Now it is a very important debate in the industry, the reduction of that window and that behind the cinema comes streaming almost immediately.

What content differences will we find between HBO Max in the United States and in Spain?

The whole part of Warner Bros Media is going to be very similar, because the whole part of Warner, Cartoon, the Originals, all of that is going to be practically identical all over the world. With regard to purchases from third parties, producers and distributors outside of Warner, it must be said that in Europe, and especially in Spain, we are very privileged to have very powerful content from third parties.

These deals have been carried out in each country independently, so the content of third parties does not have to have anything to do with what is seen in the United States or in the Nordic countries. They are negotiated region by region, which implies that in the United States they may not have ‘The Maiden’s Tale’ or ‘Vikings’, for example, which is seen in Spain.

In addition to fiction, is HBO Max going to pay attention to other types of content that are working well on other platforms, such as contests or reality shows?

Yes, we are already producing unscripted content, such as reality show ‘Fboy Island’, which premiered this summer on HBO Max in the United States. It is a different and immensely popular content. I believe that HBO Max has the ability to appeal to different audiences, including those interested in realities or dance contests, for example. And we are interested in producing this type of content also locally, beyond fiction series such as ’30 coins’ or ‘Patria’

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What about 4K, one of the features that was most lacking in HBO Spain, how much content will we find in this resolution?

I do not have an exact number of how much content we will have in 4K, but of course we want there to be more and more, for example all the films that will arrive next year from theaters. It is an important parameter for us, and we want to offer the best image and sound quality.

What other technological features will we find in the new platform?

We are moving globally towards a new platform, much improved from a technological point of view. In terms of features and functionality we are going to move on from two streams simultaneous to three, and from five devices to an unlimited number of devices. We are also going to introduce up to five profiles, which we believe are essential in homes with adults and children, each with their own viewing history.

We will also have our own environment for children, with parental codes and the possibility of setting age limits to protect the youngest viewers. There will also be customizable avatars, for whoever wants to be Jon Snow, or a dragon, or a Looney Tunes, or the user himself uploading a personal photo. There will also be color customization and other types of customization.

hbo max
hbo max

As for prices, there have been no changes, neither upwards nor downwards …

We have done several studies related to prices, and we believe that we can attract more consumers through increasing the catalog, and adding diversity and variety to the content. We believe that for this you had to maintain the price and also the simplicity: a single product, a single price. What we are adding is an annual plan that allows you to subscribe for one year, but pay for eight months.

Will there be increases in the future, as has happened with platforms like Netflix?

There will be no increases in the short term: we do not want to commit further because there can always be external factors that affect the price, such as inflation, but we believe that this is the right price for the Spanish market.

Where do you see HBO Max in five years?

I’ve been working at HBO for ten years, it’s been a decade of streaming growth, but we know there is still a lot of room for growth and that consumers are supporting it, especially new viewers. I still believe that there is a ceiling and that people cannot have twenty streaming services, people will select a couple, and they will prefer to have something for the whole family.

I believe that HBO Max will appeal to a wider and more diverse audience than HBO Spain currently does, and that it will be one of the viewers’ favorite streaming services not only now, but also five years from now. I’m not saying we’re going to be the greatest service, but certainly one of the greatest.