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HBO Max has 28.7 million subscribers, but not all of them are actually watching yet

HBO Max has 28.7 million subscribers, but not all of them are actually watching yet


AT&T counts ‘activations’ of the premium channel in its third quarter earnings

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Illustration by William Joel / The Verge

HBO Max, the new premium streaming channel from AT&T’s Warner Media, said in its earnings report on Thursday that 8.6 million customers have activated their subscriptions to the service in the third quarter, bringing the total number of HBO and HBO Max subscribers in the US to 38 million — ahead of the company’s target of 37 million for the end of 2020 — and 57 million globally.

AT&T counts “activations” as well as subscribers, as many customers who already pay for HBO have access to HBO Max as part of their package, but haven’t yet activated that subscription and started watching. According to the earnings report, 28.7 million customers were eligible to get HBO Max at the end of the third quarter, but activations of HBO Max to date number 12.7 million, meaning about half of the existing HBO subscribers who could get HBO Max for free haven’t yet watched Max content (and may not be aware it’s available to them). And HBO Max still isn’t on major platforms like Roku, which likely has had an impact on subscriber growth.

The rest of AT&T’s third quarter results were mixed. Its cable division, which includes DirecTV, lost 627,000 customers in the quarter. but broadband subscribers were up by 158,000, including more than 100,000 subscribers on one of its Keep Americans Connected plans. Its wireless division saw an increase of 645,000 postpaid phone subscribers.

AT&T saw a profit of $2.8 billion in the third quarter, down from $3.7 billion a year ago. Revenue was also lower, coming in at $42.3 billion compared to $44.6 billion in the year-ago quarter. Its Warner Bros. division saw revenue drop 28 percent to $2.5 billion, taking a hit from closed theaters and movie releases delayed until next year. HBO’s third quarter revenue was down 2.1 percent to $1.8 billion.

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