HBO in the FAST-lane
Watching HBO movies and shows with ads kinda sucks, but it might be the future—for some movies and shows.
The appeal of premium TV networks like HBO is uninterrupted language, sex, and violence. Yet, HBO Max™ and other premium streaming services have ad-supported plans—and Warner Bros. Discovery jettisoned some HBO movies and shows to free, ad-supported TV (FAST) channels on Tubi and the Roku Channel.
Ad breaks, even if you use them to text or hit the bathroom, distract you from the show, ruining immersion. They also pop up obnoxiously on FAST services. It’s like the algorithm knows when tension and interest are high, then hits us with pitches for laundry soap and online college. And, at least for shows like Westworld and The Nevers, we’re forced to accept them.
But it’s free content—because advertisers subsidize our entertainment. If they didn’t, we’d have to pay with real money instead of our time. If you’re on a budget, that’s a small price to pay. When every dollar matters, free or discounted premium content has considerable value.
Where does that leave HBO Max subscribers who subscribed to watch this content ad-free and probably couldn’t have predicted HBO dropping them? Well, the content remains available.
So are tons of older TV series from other networks that fewer people seek as time passes. There’s already so much content out there that we can’t watch it all in our lifetimes and keep up with the new hotness.
At least on FAST services, fans that want these movies and shows can find them, and content owners will see revenue and maybe even new subscribers. Will that ad revenue exceed what Warner Bros. Discovery already earns via the HBO Max ad-supported plan? It’s too early to tell.
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But with HBO’s reputation for quality content, it’s doubtful HBO Max will suffer much subscriber attrition. The service always has at least one sizzle show, and it’s currently riding high on bangers like The Last of Us, The White Lotus, Euphoria, and House of the Dragon. Plus, it still has a deep back catalog of shows, tons of hit movies, and content hubs like Adult Swim and DC Universe. And, of course, all of the content coming over from Discovery+.
Watching some HBO (and, probably in the future, SHOWTIME®) movies and shows on FAST services may be the new streaming TV status quo. If we really want to watch them without ads, we can still buy them on digital and physical media (until we can’t, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue).