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HBO Max activations double to 17.2 million in fourth quarter

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Key Points
  • HBO Max's activations doubled to 17.2 million.
  • HBO and HBO Max now have a combined 41.5 million domestic subscribers, up 20% from 34.6 million a year prior.
  • Of the 37.7 million HBO Max-eligible subscribers, 30 million came from wholesalers and 6.8 million were through retail channels.
Gal Gadot stars as Wonder Woman in "Wonder Woman 1984."
Warner Bros.

"Wonder Woman 1984" helped double the HBO Max's activations to 17.2 million, AT&T said Thursday.

The telecommunications company, which owns WarnerMedia, reported that HBO and HBO Max now have a combined 41.5 million domestic subscribers, up 20% from 34.6 million a year prior.

Of the 37.7 million HBO Max-eligible subscribers, 30 million came from wholesalers and 6.8 million were through retail channels. Retail subscribers are those that purchase the streaming service directly, not through a cable subscription or other streaming subscription.

This means that nearly half of HBO subscribers who were eligible to get HBO Max have not signed up yet.

While AT&T pointed to "Wonder Woman 1984" for the uptick in sign-ups, much of the gains were likely due to WarnerMedia striking deals in the fourth quarter to get the app on Roku devices and Amazon's Fire TV.

For comparison, rival Netflix surpassed 200 million paid subscribers during its fourth quarter and Disney+ catapulted to 73.7 million.

In total, the AT&T said it invested about $800 million in HBO Max during the latest quarter, and more than $2 billion in 2020 overall.

AT&T blamed the ongoing coronavirus pandemic for $1.6 billion in lower theatrical and TV revenue during the fourth quarter. During the period ending Dec. 31, the company took a $780 million charge due to the impairment of production and other content inventory at WarnerMedia. Around $520 million of that was from the continued shutdown of theaters and AT&T's new hybrid distribution model, which brings films to theaters and HBO Max on the same day.

Warner Bros. revenue fell 21.2% to $3.2 billion because of film postponements and the rise in the number of home-entertainment releases.

"One, I'd point out, from my perspective, 7 million net adds is pretty stout and the strategy is working," one AT&T executive said during an earnings call Wednesday. "And secondly, we're 31 days out from 'Wonder Woman's' release so we'll continue to follow it."

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