Telecommunications provider AT&T has quietly dropped HBO Max as a bundled benefit for new AT&T customers on its best unlimited wireless plan, AT&T Unlimited Premium. The company launched the new plan this week, which replaced Unlimited Elite. AT&T confirmed that the new plan does not include the streaming service, but did not provide a detailed explanation of its decision.
“HBO Max is a great service, but we are constantly experimenting with the features we bring to our customers to give them the best value,” AT&T spokesman Jim Greer told Vidak For Congress.
Bundling HBO Max with AT&T’s wireless plans helped win customers and convince existing subscribers to switch to the more expensive plan. Now the mega merger of Warner Bros. Discovery is complete, AT&T no longer owns HBO Max and therefore has no incentive to continue giving consumers the advantage. With this week’s move, AT&T no longer has a video streaming partner for its main wireless service.
It’s important to note that existing customers who already have an Unlimited Elite subscription will continue to receive HBO Max at no additional cost. Also, the Cricket Wireless brand of AT&T, the company’s prepaid provider, still offers the ad-supported version of HBO Max that’s included with the $60-per-month unlimited plan.
Previously, the AT&T Unlimited Elite wireless plan offered HBO Max at no additional cost. While AT&T Unlimited Premium doesn’t offer free HBO Max, the plan includes 50 gigabytes (from 40 GB per month) of fast hotspot data and starts at $50 per month per line if you get four lines.
Before the launch of the HBO Max streaming service, the carrier had given HBO free in some of its unlimited plans dating back to 2017.
WarnerMedia had dragged down AT&T’s total revenues, reporting that for the first quarter of 2022, WarnerMedia’s operating income was $1.3 billion, a 32.7% year-over-year decline. AT&T said the decline was largely the result of increased “investment in the launch of CNN+ and expanding new territories at HBO Max.” CNN+ was subsequently shut down a month after launch.
At the end of March, HBO Max and HBO had a total of 76.8 million subscribers worldwide, a quarterly net profit of 3 million.
AT&T’s rivals T-Mobile and Verizon have also taken advantage of the strategy of bundling streaming services. Since 2017, T-Mobile has been offering free subscriptions to Netflix (“Netflix on Us”) with some of its offerings and now also offers a free year of Paramount+ Essentials and Apple TV+ on some of its plans.
Verizon offers the Disney bundle (Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu) at no extra cost with some of its more expensive unlimited plans. It has previously offered a free year of Discovery+.
In early March, Verizon announced +Play, a content and entertainment hub that enables Verizon customers to manage subscriptions for entertainment, music, gaming and more on a single platform. In April, the company announced that HBO Max would become a partner in that service. A full launch of +Play is coming later this year.