HBO Max: Warner Media Streaming Service Nabs Exclusive Right to Friends

TV

Wisely deciding that “Unnamed WarnerMedia Streaming Service” was probably not that punchy of a branding move, WarnerMedia has now officially named its upcoming streaming media service. 

Warner announced that its new streaming service will be called HBO Max. Here is a helpful video teaser they launched alongside the announcement

Every major media conglomerate needs a Netflix-style streaming service to consolidate all of their existing properties into one home and allow for consumers to pay those conglomerates directly. Apple has announced Apple TV+, Disney has announced Disney+, and NBC Universal is currently working on something as well. HBO Max will be WarnerMedia’s answer in the ongoing streaming wars.

“HBO Max will bring together the diverse riches of WarnerMedia to create programming and user experiences not seen before in a streaming platform. HBO’s world-class programming leads the way, the quality of which will be the guiding principle for our new array of Max Originals, our exciting acquisitions, and the very best of the Warner Bros. libraries, starting with the phenomenon that is ‘Friends,’” Robert Greenblatt, chairman, WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-To-Consumer said in a statement.

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Most of the Warner library will be available to stream on HBO Max soon after its launch. These titles include popular retired TV shows like Friends, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Pretty Little Liars. It will also include the streaming rights to shows currently airing on Warner-owned networks like The CW’s Batwoman and Riverdale spinoff Katy Keene

HBO Max Launch Date

HBO Max doesn’t have an official release date yet but there is a clearer rollout timeline

Kevin Reilly, Chief Creative Officer for WarnerMedia’s Direct-to-Consumer division (and President of both TNT and TBS), discussed the future of the streaming service during his executive session at the 2019 TCA winter press tour. 

Reilly revealed that the streaming service will launch fully in 2020. That full launch will be preceded by a beta testing release in the fourth quarter of 2019. That beta release will not feature any of the new original content being planned for the platform.

WarnerMedia properties are currently scattered all across the streaming landscape, whether that be on AT&T/Warner owned entities like DC Universe and HBO Now/HBO Go or on third party streamers like Netflix (which has a mutually beneficial agreement in place with Warner company The CW). Reilly spoke obliquely about plans for consolidating all of the now AT&T content on one platform but did reiterate there would be “multiple tiers” for membership on the service.

HBO Max Content

HBO Max will feature the combined forces of Warner channels and studios like Warner Bros., New Line, DC Entertainment, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, The CW, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes and more. Here is the type of programming that HBO Max subscribers can expect from those sources. 

Classic TV Shows

The big news amongst the older TV offerings on HBO Max is that Warner has finally reacquired the streaming rights to its ’90s cash cow Friends. All episodes of Friends will be available on HBO Max after spending most of its streaming life on Netflix. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warner paied $425 million to bring Friends home. Also available will be The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Pretty Little Liars

Current TV Shows

HBO Max will be the exclusive streaming home of TV shows produced by Warner television. These include CW shows like Batwoman, and the upcoming Riverdale spinoff Katy Keene. The other current CW series will remain on their streaming partners (mostly Netflix) until their run has ended.

Brief clips of some Cartoon Network shows and Tru TV’s Impractical Jokers can be see in HBO Max’s announcement video as well.

Not explicity mentioned in Warner’s HBO Max announcement, is the fate of DC Universe shows like Doom PatrolTitans, etc. According to The Hollywood Reporter, DC Universe is expected to remain its own independent streaming entity for the time being. As are HBO Now and HBO Go.

Movies

Included in HBO Max’s announcement video are clips from Warner-owned movies like A Star is Born, Wonder Woman,  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and even The Wizard of Oz. It’s safe to assume that HBO Max will be the exclusive home for as many Warner-owned film properites that Warner can muster up. 

DC character mastermind Greg Berlanti has also signed a deal with Warner to produce four YA-focused movies for the HBO Max service. Reese Witherspoon is under contract to produce two films.

Max Originals

HBO Max will be home to the previously announced Max Original series and movies. All synopses are provided by Warner.

Dune: The Sisterhood, an adaptation of Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson’s book based in the world created by Frank Herbert’s book Dune, from director Denis Villeneuve

Tokyo Vice, based on Jake Adelstein’s non-fiction first-hand account of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police beat starring Ansel Elgort

The Flight Attendant, a one-hour thriller series based on the novel by Chris Bohjalian, which will star Kaley Cuoco, who is also executive producing alongside Greg Berlanti

Love Life, a 10-episode half-hour romantic comedy anthology series starring Pitch Perfect star Anna Kendrick, who will also executive produce alongside Paul Feig

Station Eleven, a postapocalyptic limited series based on Emily St. John Mandel’s international bestseller, adapted by Patrick Somerville and directed by Hiro Mura.

Made for Love, a 10-episode, half-hour, straight-to-series adaptation based on the tragicomic novel of the same name by Alissa Nutting, also from Somerville and directed by S.J. Clarkson

Gremlins, an animated series from Warner Bros. Animation and Amblin Entertainment based on the original movie  

HBO Content

Given that HBO Max has “HBO” in its name, what would it be without some good-old fashioned HBO content? HBO Max will feature everything that HBO currently has like Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Big Little Lies, and more. Some of the notable upcoming HBO series include (synopses again provided by Warner):

– Stephen King’s The Outsider, a dark mystery starring Ben Mendelsohn, produced and directed by Jason Bateman

Lovecraft Country, a unique horror series based on a novel by Matt Ruff, written and executive produced by Misha Green, and executive produced by Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams

The Nevers, Joss Whedon’s new science fiction series starring Laura Donnelly

The Gilded Age, the opulent world of 1885 New York from “Downton Abbey’s” Julian Fellowes

Avenue 5, high satire aboard a space-bound cruise ship from Armando Iannucci (“Veep”), starring Hugh Laurie and Josh Gad

The Undoing, a psychological thriller from David E. Kelley, directed by Susanne Bier starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant

The Plot Against America, reimagined history based on Phillip Roth’s novel written and executive produced by David Simon and Ed Burns, starring Winona Ryder and John Turturro

Perry Mason, the classic legal drama for a new generation, executive produced by Robert Downey, Jr.and Susan Downey, with Matthew Rhys in the title role

I Know This Much Is True, a complex family drama starring Mark Ruffalo playing twin brothers, one of whom has schizophrenia, based on the best-selling novel by Wally Lamb, written and directed by Derek Cianfrance.

“Untitled Game of Thrones Prequel,” this Naomi Watts-starring series will take place during “The Long Night,” thousands of years before the events of the series. 

Alec Bojalad is TV Editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his stuff here. Follow him at his creatively-named Twitter handle @alecbojalad

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