HBO Max cuts are finally starting to bite

27 December, 2022

HBO Max recently announced another round of show cancellations and removals from its platform, echoing the first wave of cuts that caught fans off guard in August.  At that time, a hugely successful House of the Dragon premiere in August helped make up for the loss of shows that were removed from HBO Max that month.  Now that demand for that massive hit has died down, we are beginning to see the effects of these decisions impact the top level demand for HBO Max’s catalog.

The total demand for HBO Max’s catalog of shows was relatively flat from July through October.  The first season of House of the Dragon aired episodes weekly from August 21st to October 23rd and helped to offset any drop in demand from the August cuts.  However, in November total demand for shows on HBO Max was down nearly 4% from what it had been in July.


When we looked at the first round of cuts announced in August, we measured that the total demand for series being cut amounted to 2.1% of demand for all series on HBO Max at the time.  To put that in perspective, that added up to around the same amount of attention audiences gave to Game of Thrones that month.

The latest round of cuts announced this month is on a similar scale to last time.  Looking at the total demand in November for all the impacted shows, they comprised 2.7% of the total demand for all shows on HBO Max that month.  Without another hit on the scale of House of the Dragon to offset these cuts, HBO Max subscribers will likely feel this round of casualties more acutely.


While the aggregate impact of the recent show cuts may be on a similar scale to last time, the biggest shows impacted this time drove more demand than the biggest casualties of the last round. Infinity Train was the most in-demand show cut last time and had 5.9x demand the month before being axed. Infinity Train may have an extremely devoted fanbase, but it doesn’t come close to reaching the same audience as Westworld, the most in-demand show cut this time, which had 23 times the average series demand in November.  In fact, five of the shows being taken down from HBO Max this time had higher demand than Infinity Train at the time of its removal.  Along with Westworld, Raised by Wolves and The Nevers are among the top 3% of shows by demand.


While these moves by HBO Max are not good news for current or potential subscribers to the platform, the good news for HBO Max is that the package of content it offers consumers still looks competitively priced relative to the competition. In Q3, total demand for all shows and movies on the platform was about equal to Hulu. The ad-free tiers of both platforms are priced at $14.99/month which looks like a good price for the amount of in-demand content they provide subscribers.  

From this position HBO Max has room to remove some content and stay competitive. However, with more cuts planned for January and potentially beyond, the platform should proceed with caution to avoid significantly damaging its value to subscribers and triggering elevated subscriber churn. Or alternatively, keep up the pace of cuts and find another House of the Dragon to smooth things over.


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