HBO Max touts streaming portfolio with virtual SXSW installation

Dive Brief:

  • HBO Max, the video streaming platform started last year by AT&T’s WarnerMedia, unveiled an interactive digital experience to showcase its content among visitors to SXSW Online, this year’s virtual version of South by Southwest. The HBO Max Orbit experience lets viewers explore its catalog by responding to facial movements and voice commands, per details emailed to Marketing Dive.
  • Orbit has more than 150,000 clips from movies and TV series including “Game of Thrones,” “Lovecraft Country,” “Love Life,” “Big Bang Theory,” “Tom and Jerry” and “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.” The shows are from HBO, Warner Bros., Cartoon Network and WarnerMedia’s other brands.
  • Some of the clips activate a “challenge mode” that asks viewers to gesture to look for clips that match a title, or to say a phrase from a show before time runs out. Viewers who successfully complete the challenge will unlock an exclusive clip from “Godzilla vs. King,” which will premiere in theaters and stream on HBO Max on March 31, per the announcement.

Dive Insight:

HBO Max aims to showcase its library of exclusive content to attendees of the SXSW Online virtual event with its Orbit experience. Demand for streamed content has surged in the past few years, and accelerated at an even higher clip last year as more households canceled cable and satellite TV service and opted for connected devices such as smart TVs and mobile phones. U.S. consumers this year will spend an average of one hour and seven minutes a day watching subscription streaming services like HBO Max, up 7.3% from 2020, amid that shift in consumption habits, researcher eMarketer forecast.

HBO Max also aims to stand out as the market for subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services grows more crowded with Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video all vying for limited attention. To reach viewers, streaming platforms tripled their ad spend from a year earlier to $1 billion in the first half of 2020, according to iSpot.TV data cited by eMarketer. During that six-month period, Amazon Prime Video was the biggest spender at $169.8 million, ahead of Hulu ($144.6 million), Disney+ ($135.3 million), Apple TV+ ($104.7 million) and CBS All Access ($54.1 million). HBO Max launched in May 2020, making it a late entrant for the period. Ad spending by the platforms is estimated to have grown in the past year as they seek more subscribers during the pandemic.

Streaming video has become a key moneymaker for companies like WarnerMedia as people avoid theaters during the health crisis. WarnerMedia in December stirred controversy with a plan to release all of its movies simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max this year in an effort to broaden distribution. However, there is a chance that box office revenue this year will rebound as theaters reopen and capacity restrictions are lifted. AMC Entertainment Holdings, one of the nation’s biggest owners of movie theaters, this week said it had reopened 90% of its U.S. cinemas, setting the stage for a potential rebound in revenue.

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