AT&T Time Warner’s upcoming video-streaming service, HBO Max, has already been announced with an ambitious content plan ahead of its “Spring 2020” launch window. That plan grew ever larger on Thursday with the news that its American debut will include a major non-AT&T library of content: a wealth of BBC America series, particularly the complete “modern” run of Doctor Who.
This will mark the first time American viewers will have streaming-subscription access to the series’ 11th season, which wrapped in December 2018 and introduced the world to the 13th Doctor, who is the first female actor in the role, Jodie Whittaker. (As of press time, your legitimate access to these 2018 episodes has been limited to subscribing to a cable-TV plan or buying episodes a la carte.)
HBO Max’s deal with BBC America, as announced by WarnerMedia, will include every previous episode in the most recently rebooted Doctor Who series, dating back to 2005, and “future seasons after they air on BBC America.” Since HBO Max will have the “exclusive streaming rights” to the series, that means existing Amazon Prime Video users will assumedly lose their existing subscription-based access to seasons 1-10 ahead of the rival streaming service’s launch.
In addition, WarnerMedia has licensed “700” episodes from other BBC America series (yes, exactly “700,” not “over 700”) to stream on HBO Max. These include the network’s complete runs of The Office and Luther, along with “multiple seasons” of car enthusiast series Top Gear—including both the classic hosting lineup of Clarkson-and-co and the newer Matt LeBlanc-fueled cast. (Between that news and HBO Max’s acquisition of every Friends episode, AT&T Time Warner has certainly locked down a LeBlanc collection; will the company try to acquire Showtime’s LeBlanc series Episodes next?)
While the announcement includes news about HBO Max hosting five BBC America series that haven’t yet premiered, it also excludes a number of popular existing series, including Broadchurch (whose American remake aired on Fox), Orphan Black, and Killing Eve.
Up until today, HBO Max’s impending launch lineup has mostly been full of native series to the AT&T Time Warner entertainment portfolio, which is already ridiculous enough. The list requires a deep inhale before reading out loud: Warner Bros., HBO, New Line, DC, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, The CW, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Hello Sunshine, Looney Tunes, and Warner Bros. Television. The latter is what accounts for HBO Max swiping TV series like Friends, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Pretty Little Liars away from other streaming services as HBO Max exclusives.
By advertising any of these streaming-video content options as HBO Max exclusives, AT&T Time Warner appears to be contradicting testimony given by then-AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson to the US Senate in 2016. As he said during that hearing about anti-trust concerns:
Nor is there any reason to believe we could use Time Warner programming or AT&T networks to hurt related markets. Simply put, it would be irrational business behavior to do so. Time Warner’s programming is more valuable when distributed to as many eyes as possible. Moreover, in order to have great programming, it is imperative that we attract great creative talent to develop it. The best way to attract that talent is through widespread distribution of Time Warner content.
The service has yet to receive a more formal launch window beyond “Spring 2020.” Neither has HBO given any indication of a price as compared to its existing standalone streaming service, HBO Now, which costs $15/month in the United States. The news follows months of concern over AT&T Time Warner’s approach to HBO’s content and release schedule, along with news that the corporation’s DirecTV and AT&T Now services have suffered from subscription lapses following a price increase and technical issues.