HBO Max Reaches 28.7M, Including 8.6M "Activated," Subscribers

HBO Max
Presley Ann/Getty Images for WarnerMedia

HBO Max

The streaming service of AT&T-owned WarnerMedia has had 8.6 million "activations."

WarnerMedia streaming service HBO Max has reached 28.7 million "total HBO Max subscribers," including 8.6 million "activated" users as of the end of the third quarter, AT&T said on Thursday.

A set of tables and slides the company published along with its Thursday earnings report showed though that not all of the 28.7 million paying users who can are actually using the service. The footnote in one slide provided this note for HBO Max's reach: "28.7 million subscribers with access to HBO Max and 8.6 million HBO Max activations."

The company mentions activations, because consumers can not only get HBO Max directly from WarnerMedia. People who subscribe to HBO via pay TV providers also get HBO Max, but it requires them to download the HBO Max app on their smart TVs or other devices. The same is true for customers on AT&T's Unlimited wireless and fiber broadband plans. "Activations" count the people who download, or "activate," the HBO Max app.

Last earnings season, the company had reported that HBO Max had reached 4.1 million subscribers in the service's first month, including wholesale customers from packages that include HBO Max, as well as customers who were direct retail subscribers.

"The growth and scale of HBO Max continues to show strong momentum, with activations more than doubling since last quarter to 8.6 million, and HBO/HBO Max subscribers up to 38 million, exceeding [the] initial end of year target of 36 million," the company said on Thursday. "HBO and HBO Max subs top 57 million worldwide. HBO Max investment drove subscriber growth: 28.7 million total HBO Max subscribers."

It added that an HBO Max advertising-supported service was on track to launch in 2021.

The company has said it hopes to reach 50 million to 55 million HBO Max customers in the U.S. by 2025.

Combined, HBO and HBO Max have 38.0 million U.S. subscribers, compared with a summer update that had mentioned 36.3 million subscribers, and, up from 34.6 million as of Dec. 31, 2019.

HBO Max launched on May 27 with the full HBO catalog plus originals and a library of old movies and TV shows, including the Studio Ghibli collection and Friends. At $15 per month, the service is one of the more expensive streaming products on the market. But because it costs the same as HBO, many preexisting subscribers to the premium cable network were grandfathered into HBO Max at no additional price.

Stankey has said HBO Max has "world-class content" and was making good on its promise to reach a broader demographic than the traditional HBO service. "Customer engagement has exceeded our expectations," he previously said, citing 70 percent more average weekly viewing hours than HBO Now has attracted.

Wall Street has been discussing the growth outlook for HBO Max, compared with streaming giants like Netflix, as well as Disney+, NBCUniversal's Peacock and others. Netflix remains the largest streaming service worldwide.