After 50 years of mainstream success, serving as a staple platform for both the cable and streaming eras, HBO is losing its name-brand title.
As reported by Variety, the streamer will now be titled MAX as of May 23, a move made in hopes of broadening its viewership. Clashing against the figureheads of Disney, Amazon, Apple, and Netflix within the hierarchy of modern entertainment, the platform is yet again looking toward change as a means of survival.
Founded in 1972 by TIME INC., HBO would build a reputation for its promotion of uncut and uncommercialized material, with this being the prime draw for its expanding cable audience. Three years later, a jump to satellite would make it the first national cable channel.
Finding a rival in Paramount Media Networks, with their new network Showtime posing a monthly charge of $9.95 to its consumer base, HBO leaned into its ability to adapt. In 1980, the company released a complimentary service called Cinemax. The service would charge $7-10 at a monthly rate. With a narrowed price point, this move aimed to invite on-the-fence viewers into buying into the HBO brand while separating from its Showtime counterpart.
As this crusade into conglomeration carried on, both HBO and Cinemax would establish a second channel for each network, as HBO2 and Cinemax2 would go public in 1991.
Now with a wider network, the ensuing years carried this trend of diversifying assets, as channels geared toward a specific viewer base gradually became available. Sources such as HBO Family, a more kid-oriented channel, and HBO Latino, a Spanish-language channel, were just some of the new additions.
All this expansion would serve the company well during the cable era, as 39 million people had subscribed to the platform by 2009, as listed by Statista.
Paired alongside its success on the business front, HBO’s growth on the creative side would have to be one made through not just borrowed properties, but also original content. Having been built as a conduit for blockbuster and cult films alike, the brand would come to pair its buyout of IP with productions made in-house.
Right before the turn of the century, they would release their first mainstream hit in “The Sopranos," a show centered around a mob boss named Tony and the ensuing lifestyle that comes with his profession. Airing from 1999 to 2007, the show enjoyed a critical and commercial following, earning 21 Emmy Awards throughout its serialization.
Brand building only carried on from here, as hits continued to flow from the company’s creative stream. A crime drama in “The Wire”, a sitcom in “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and a rom-com drama in “Sex and the City” were just some of the companies entertainment pillars as it rolled through the 2000’s. From here, the brand would move away from the cable box and towards a more diverse platform to present its content.
Releasing HBO Go in 2010, this change would highlight a viable new medium in the internet, which allowed for a smoother and broader flow of entertainment between producer and consumer. In 2011, the release of the fantasy drama “Game of Thrones” headlined the newfound streamer through the 2010s until the show's conclusion in May of 2019.
A year after, the company would swap the word Go for Max, a move meant to enforce the brand’s deep catalog of both new and old content.
Now, with HBO Max set to change its name in the coming month, this era of brand placement will be the shortest in the company’s entire history, with the title having existed for only three years.
As reported by The Los Angeles Times, HBO’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery is also making the change as a means of meshing the prestige programming offered by HBO with Discovery’s mainstream fare.
Offering the same rates for subscribers of HBO Max, MAX will offer a new premium tier that will allow four devices to stream concurrently for $19.99 a month.
Entering a new age of streaming competition, MAX will bring with it the same catalog of content that first drew viewers into the brand while adding to its evolving platform. Currently in a bout for streaming dominance against fellow entertainment titans, MAX will need to balance two hefty demands.
Not only must it climb the mountain of mass media relevance but also uphold a half-century-long reputation for creating new, exciting, and often eye-opening original content for its millions of viewers. MAX is HBO’s latest step into the streaming gauntlet, continuing to fight for a spot as the undisputed streaming champion of the world.
Source Photo: Warner Bros. Discovery
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