HBO Max Reaches 30 Originals, Adds Comedy Central Mainstays Like ‘Chappelle’s Show’, ‘Inside Amy Schumer’

In a keynote session Monday at NATPE’s Streaming Plus virtual conference, WarnerMedia’s Michael Quigley pushed back on the perception that HBO Max has been a bit light on original content.

“There was some chatter about ‘only’ six originals at launch,” the EVP of content acquisitions said. “I think what’s been lost is that since that time, we’ve steadily introduced new shows, new movies, new content to the platform over the course of the summer. We wanted to create the feeling among consumers that each week they’re going to find something new.”

There are now 30 original titles on HBO Max, which launched May 27, and there will be 36 by the end of September, Quigley said. The service offers 10,000 hours of overall programming, which includes the same HBO offering available via pay-TV and a separate stand-alone streaming service, plus titles from Warner Bros, Adult Swim, Turner Classic and other brands.

While Quigley’s portfolio includes cable networks and other digital platforms, the main focus of the 50-minute session was HBO Max. The service was the last of five major new streaming offerings to reach the market as tech and traditional players spend billions of dollars try to close the gap with Netflix and other incumbents.

Max hasn’t gotten off to an especially fast start, with 4.1 million sign-ups in its first month, though the company said it is on track to meet five-year projections for subscribers and revenue. It hasn’t yet had any breakthrough originals like Disney+ or Apple TV+, both of which fared well in last month’s Emmy nominations. Disney said in August that Disney+ already has 60.5 million subscribers, which was the low end of the company’s five-year forecast.

Another complication for WarnerMedia internally has been a restructuring under WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, which followed a previous revamp of the former Time Warner after AT&T acquired it in 2018. In the latest changes, HBO Max overseers Bob Greenblatt and Kevin Reilly were let go.

WarnerMedia and parent AT&T have not revealed any viewership information from the early run of HBO Max, and neither did Quigley.

On the programming front, a reunion of the cast of Friends that was originally billed as the headline launch attraction was waylaid by COVID-19 and has yet to be produced. Love Life, a romantic comedy anthology, took its place as the main initial launch title and was renewed for a second season. More recent offerings have included Amy Schumer docuseries Expecting Amy and Seth Rogen comedy film An American Pickle.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, Quigley announced during the session, marquee Comedy Central library titles like Chappelle’s Show, Key & Peele, Reno 911, Nathan for You and Inside Amy Schumer, will arrive on HBO Max.

That portfolio significantly expands on the big-ticket acquisition of South Park and separate pickups of Awkwafina is Nora from Queens and South Side.

“We said, ‘We think there’s more that we can do here instead of thinking of one-off shows,’” Quigley said. “It’s an opportunity for us to tap into the fan bases around those shows and bring some new audiences to them as well.”

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