With time slipping towards the planned rollout of an ad-supported tier of HBO Max during the second quarter, key details such as pricing, viewer experiences, and the lineup that will run ads remain under wraps. Even so, it is increasingly clear that programming for children and family is likely to be a key component in presenting the streaming service to advertisers.
WarnerMedia launched the Dial today, announcing dozens of new shows on HBO Max and linear networks, as well as a new focus on Cartoon Network as a central brand for kids and family. The network also adopted a new empowerment motto that could serve as a company-wide slogan: “Redesign your world”.
JP Colaco, who worked closely with WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar at Hulu and then with video start-up Vessel, joined WarnerMedia last fall as the company’s ad sales manager. In an interview with Deadline, he declined to give details on the AVOD offering. But he said there was a reason to take a first step ahead of the company’s main opening speech in May, which should be fully revealed.
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“What I see is that this new initiative that we are proposing, which reaches kindergarten in the morning, girls and boys in the afternoon and families in the evening, creates a truly holistic approach from specialists in marketing and their ability to make life. marketing cycle through our network, ”he says. “We create unique experiences. We’ll see existing marketers step up because of the quality of content, the IP experience, and the audience they can reach with it. And we’ll see new advertisers interested in reaching out to the whole family in compelling ways. “
While the slate for kids and family – including 300 new hours for kids and 1000 for preschoolers – is released in the fall, Colaco said, back to school marketing initiatives and Halloween will offer options to advertisers.
An AVOD tier of HBO Max has been in the works for over two years, but the business is complex for a variety of business and technological reasons. For starters, many HBO programming players have contractual guarantees that their work will remain in an ad-free viewing environment. This has led to speculation that Turner programming would be more likely to feature commercials, but tilting the scales away from HBO flies in the face of WarnerMedia’s efforts to break down the long-standing silos between Turner, HBO, and Warner Bros. While streaming services like Hulu and CBS All Access added ad-free options after the ad started, none on a large scale has gone the other way. In media history, a parallel is the evolution of cable networks like AMC and Bravo.
Tom Ascheim, who helped Nickelodeon dominate the children’s industry before a more recent stint as a senior executive at Disney, joined WarnerMedia last year as president of Warner Bros. Global Kids, Young Adults and Classics. In the interview with Colaco, he said WarnerMedia’s digital reach is twice that of Nickelodeon, giving it access across social and digital platforms to 1 billion people around the world.
The multiplatform nature of the company’s assets, Ascheim said, sets it apart in the increasingly competitive child and family arena, where tech giants battle media companies like Disney, WarnerMedia, ViacomCBS and others. WarnerMedia will continue to focus on a mix of its linear networks, which reach 440 million people worldwide, and subscription VOD, which debuted in 2021 with 41.5 million subscribers on linear HBO and HBO. Max.
“We have the story, the unity and the modern approach to compete with all the other kids and family players in the world,” Ascheim said during the initial presentation online. “And wherever we are, unlike most of our competitors, we want you to be with us every step of the way – on shelf, streaming, and all parts of the digital ecosystem.”
Ascheim told Deadline that the company is “reinventing the way we go about speaking to the public.” He admitted that HBO Max last May got off to a “slightly slower start than we wanted.” Many users criticized what they believed to be confusing messages to consumers on how to access the service, which is free for existing HBO subscribers but $ 15 per month for new ones. Until the end of 2020, further source of frustration, HBO Max was not yet available through Roku or Amazon Fire TV, which together control nearly three-quarters of the US streaming market.
Since those early frictions, things have been improving, Ascheim said. Warner Bros. strategy of releasing its 2021 schedule in theaters and on HBO Max “will prove to be a smart way to play the game,” he said. “We will be rolling this throughout the year.” Upcoming releases Tom and Jerry and Space Jam 2 are two key titles for all ages that will allow cross-pollination between children’s programming and the HBO Max scaling effort. Teen titans go, a major Cartoon Network franchise soon on its way to HBO Max after a run on Hulu, will host a ‘watch party’ – Mystery science theater-style – from the original Space jam film in a synergistic effort.
Streaming “is a great home for our content,” Ascheim said. “HBO means so many amazing things in the universe. It’s an unprecedented quality nickname on television. But that doesn’t mean children. I think part of our job is to complement that brand presence. Despite the power of DC, Cartoon Network, Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera and other brands, Ascheim continued, “We’ve never put it all together before.”
Live programming is also coming to Cartoon Network this fall, with major franchises like Harry potter and Wonder woman edit the fully animated mix. Ascheim said there is “proof of concept” in other countries, where audiences more easily embrace a mix of live action and animation. Girls as young as seven, he added, are showing interest in live fares.