AT&T Forecasts 50 Million HBO Max Domestic Subscribers by 2025

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WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey

Meanwhile, Disney is projecting between 60 million and 90 million global streaming subscribers by 2024.

Telecom giant AT&T on Monday predicted that WarnerMedia's upcoming streaming service HBO Max is expected to nab around 50 million domestic subscribers within five years.

"This is going to be a meaningful business for us over the next four or five years and we're talking a 50 million subscriber business and we're really enthusiastic about this," AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said during an analyst call. The AT&T boss clarified his domestic forecast of 50 million subscribers was for five years to 2025.

The company on Tuesday will host a formal coming out for the planned HBO Max streaming service in Burbank where it is expected to share the service's pricing and other details. But Stephenson on Monday touted HBO Max, with its deep bench of 10,000 hours of programming, including Friends and The Big Bang Theory, as AT&T's main streaming product, alongside its traditional satellite TV offering.

And he rejected the notion HBO Max is launching into a cluttered market. "This is not Netflix. This is not Disney. This is HBO Max and it's going to have a very unique position in the marketplace," Stephenson argued.

WarnerMedia's HBO Max is joining a wave of billion-dollar Netflix competitors like Disney's Apple+ and Comcast's Peacock that are transforming the entertainment industry. Disney is projecting between 60 million and 90 million global streaming subscribers by 2024, more than the 28 million U.S. members that Hulu currently has.

And Morgan Stanley last week forecast Apple+ will become a $9 billion-a-year business with 136 million paid subscribers by 2025.

NBCUniversal's Peacock streaming service will launch in 2020 with a free, ad-supported version for its domestic cable customers. NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke last week told Wall Street analysts that his company's focus on its existing pay TV ecosystem, Comcast's 55 million customer relationships and an advertising VOD model meant "we are going to get to cruising altitude much more quickly than a subscription service."

Those who don't want ads or who don't subscribe to Comcast will have the option of paying for Peacock. Netflix, by comparison, is a maturing streaming player in the U.S. market.

Simon Murray, founder of U.K. media analysis firm Digital TV Research, recentlly estimated Netflix in the next five years will add 79 million subscribers, bringing its total subscriber base to 219 million. But Netflix will only add 10 million domestic subscribers by 2024, compared with the nearly 27 million it added during the previous five years, Murray added. 

International markets — which by 2024 will make up a projected 69 percent of Netflix's subscriber base — will as a result increasingly become important to all global streaming players.