A content deal with Sky means HBO’s streaming service can’t come to the UK until 2025.
The Financial Times has confirmed what many already thought: the current deal with Comcast-owned Sky has put the brakes on the expansion of Warner Media’s HBO Max in the UK and other countries.
The newspaper reports that Jason Kilar, the media group’s chief executive, is planning for HBO Max to make its debut in the UK, Germany and Italy once the current deal expires. Warner Media has decided not to pursue a contract renegotiation.
Until then, HBO Max shows and movies including Zack Snyder’s Justice League will remain exclusively available on Sky services, including NOW.
Plans to launch HBO Max in the UK and other European countries form a strategic U-turn. Previous chief executive, John Stankey oversaw the signing of a new contract with Sky just two years ago.
That 2019 contract built on an existing long-running deal with Sky. The original content deal with HBO saw Sky Atlantic launching in multiple countries as the home of HBO content. The latest contract paved the way for Sky Crime and Sky Documentaries to showcase HBO’s factual entertainment programmes. The deal also secured the presence of Warner Media’s children’s channels on Sky’s linear satellite and on-demand platforms.
As a result, HBO Max will, for now, only launch in those parts of Europe where Sky doesn’t operate. Sky currently offers HBO services on its linear and on-demand services in Austria, Germany, Italy, Ireland and the UK.
Four years to plan ahead
By 2025, Warner Media will be five years behind Disney, who ended their long-standing agreement with Sky in favour of going it alone with Disney+. That gives Sky four years to beef up their own original content, alongside programming from parent company Comcast’s Peacock service, to make up for the potential loss of content.
At this point, the long-term impact of a fragmenting streaming market will be much clearer. Households who have signed up to multiple providers are facing growing bills that when combined amount to more than a Sky TV subscription. On the flip side, households who are happy to cherry-pick just one or two services can usually save money and only get the content they really want.