Telecommunications provider AT&T quietly dropped HBO Max as a bundled perk for new AT&T customers on its top unlimited wireless plan, AT&T Unlimited Premium. The company launched the new plan this week, which replaced Unlimited Elite. AT&T confirmed the new plan doesn't include the streaming service but didn't provide a detailed explanation regarding its decision.
"HBO Max is a great service, but we constantly experiment with the features we offer our customers to give them the best value," AT&T spokesman Jim Greer told TechCrunch.
The bundling of HBO Max with AT&T's wireless plans helped gain customers and convince existing subscribers to switch to the higher-priced plan. Now that the Warner Bros. Discovery mega-merger has closed, AT&T no longer owns HBO Max; therefore, it has no motive to keep giving consumers the perk. With this week's move, AT&T no longer has a video streaming partner for its main wireless service.
It is important to note that existing customers who already have an Unlimited Elite plan will continue to receive HBO Max for no additional charge. Also, AT&T’s Cricket Wireless brand, the company's prepaid carrier, still offers the ad-supported version of HBO Max included with its $60 per month unlimited plan.
Previously, the AT&T Unlimited Elite wireless plan offered HBO Max for no extra charge. Although AT&T Unlimited Premium will not offer free HBO Max, the plan will include 50 gigabytes (up from 40 GB per month) of high-speed hotspot data and starts at $50 per month per line when you get four lines.
Before the launch of the streaming service HBO Max, the carrier had used to give HBO for free in some of its unlimited plans going back to 2017.
WarnerMedia had been dragging down AT&T’s overall earnings and reported that for Q1 2022, WarnerMedia’s operating income was $1.3 billion, down 32.7% year over year. AT&T said that the decline was largely a result of increased "investments incurred in launching CNN+ and expanding new territories at HBO Max.” CNN+ was then shuttered a month after its launch.
As of the end of March, HBO Max and HBO had 76.8 million total subscribers worldwide, a 3 million quarterly net gain.
AT&T’s rivals T-Mobile and Verizon have also used the strategy of bundling streaming services. Since 2017, T-Mobile has offered free subscriptions to Netflix (“Netflix on Us”) with some of its offerings and now offers a free year of Paramount+ Essentials and Apple TV+ for a few of its plans as well.
Verizon offers the Disney Bundle (Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu) at no additional charge with some of its higher-priced unlimited plans. It has previously offered a free year of Discovery+.
At the beginning of March, Verizon announced +Play, a content and entertainment hub that allows Verizon customers to manage subscriptions across entertainment, music, gaming and more all in one platform. In April, the company announced that HBO Max would be a partner in that service. A full launch of +Play will be coming later this year.