Zack Snyder’s Justice League did little to boost HBO Max subscriptions


Ezra Miller, Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot star in “Justice League.”

Source: Warner Bros.

Zack Snyder’s cut of “Justice League” may have been a hit with fans, but it did little to move the needle for HBO Max subscriptions.

On Thursday, AT&T, which owns WarnerMedia, revealed that its streaming service HBO Max and its premium cable offering HBO added 2.7 million domestic subscribers during the first quarter.

Just days before the highly anticipated release of the Snyder Cut on March 18, WarnerMedia increased its subscriber expectations, predicting between 120 million and 150 million global users for HBO Max and HBO by the end of 2025.

In total, HBO Max and HBO have a combined 44.2 million subscribers domestically, up from the 41.5 million reported at the end of the fourth quarter. Globally, the services have less than 64 million subscribers, but the company is expected to expand its product more widely this year.

Disney won’t reveal its subscriber growth for the three-month spread between January and March until May, but during the previous three-month period, it added 21.2 million new accounts globally. In total, Disney+ has surpassed 100 million subscribers worldwide.

Netflix, which has been steadily growing for years, added 3.98 million global subscribers during the same period. The company has around 207.6 million global subscribers.

HBO Max had several high-profile releases during the first quarter including “Tom & Jerry” and “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which were part of WarnerMedia’s strategy to provide movie theaters with content and pad its streaming service.

The monster movie “Godzilla vs. Kong” has dominated the domestic box office, setting records for movies released during the pandemic. It also drew the largest audience on HBO Max, the company said. The film arrived on HBO Max on March 31, the last day of the quarter.

“The same-day release of movies in theaters and on HBO Max has been a success,” said Pascal Desroches, chief financial officer at AT&T. “It has provided theaters with a steady flow of content in a pandemic-challenged environment and it’s also been a great catalyst for subscriber growth at HBO
Max.”

The Snyder Cut, which did not follow this strategy and was an exclusive launch on HBO Max, was expected to also help drive subscriber growth. Particularly, after the company shelled out an estimated $30 million to $70 million on reshoots and post-production.

WarnerMedia declined to comment on the project’s financial terms.

“It’s a marathon, but I didn’t think a ton of people would sign up for $15 a month to watch a movie,” said Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush. “So as long as they are growing, I think they are on the right path.”

“The better question is about the wisdom of day-date film launches like ‘Godzilla vs. Kong,'” he added. “With only 2.7 million new subscribers, it’s hard to justify killing a large portion of theatrical revenues by supporting HBO Max, and the problem is exacerbated as the economy reopens and more people are vaccinated.”

[Programming note: CNBC’s TechCheck will host entertainment leaders on a livestream at 7 p.m. ET to discuss the future of the industry.]



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