Tracking the success of a streaming-service movie or television show is incredibly difficult. Because there isn’t a form of traditional “box office” reporting -- the way that we have for theatrical releases -- consumers and interested parties have to rely on streaming services to be transparent in the success or failure of a new movie or television show on HBO MAX, Netflix, Amazon and more. Fans of Zack Snyder and his work in the DC universe were particularly interested in any numbers that they could find regarding how the Snyder Cut of Justice League was doing on HBO Max. Well, subscriber numbers just came out of AT&T’s investment call, so let’s talk about what they mean.
Here’s the data. AT&T reports that HBO Max added 2.7 million domestic subscribers in Quarter 1 of 2021, the period that is the ramp up to the Snyder Cut of Justice League. This raised HBO and HBO Max’s combined domestic subscriber number to 44.2 million (it was at 41.5 million). And when you compare the 2.7 million new subscribers to the 450,000 new subs that Netflix added over the same period, it sounds decent. Except, Netflix already HAS 207.6 million global subscribers, with analysts fearing that the streamer has almost maxed out on the number of new subscribers it still can add. When that number slows to a crawl, look for Netflix to raise subscription rates to continue generating revenue.
Back to HBO Max, though, which undoubtedly hoped for more of a surge as the March 18 release date for Zack Snyder’s Justice League approached. Unlike Warner Bros. offerings like Godzilla vs. Kong or Denzel Washington’s The Little Things, which were available in theaters as well as on the streaming service, Justice League was contained to HBO Max exclusively. If you wanted to see Snyder’s four-hour cut of the superhero blockbuster, you had to subscribe to the service.
In a report filed by CNBC, however, it’s noted that AT&T executives credit Godzilla vs. Kong as the movie that drew the largest audience on the streaming service for the quarter -- despite being in theaters, also, and not arriving until March 31. According to CNBC, WarnerMedia (which is owned by AT&T) declined to comment on specifics regarding the Snyder Cut.
So, is 2.7 million new subscribers enough to move the needle? It’s nothing to sneeze at, and it shows continued growth for the streaming service, though HBO Max also is able to point at Tom & Jerry, the MonsterVerse, and other original television programming as possible factors driving subscription rates. John Stankey, CEO of AT&T, said during the earnings call:
HBO Max continues to deliver strong subscriber gains fueled by the success of our day and date theatrical strategy. In the US, we’ve added more than 11 million domestic HBO Max and HBO subscribers in the last 12 months.
That’s over a year. Good for them. It’s probably not the gamechanging number that the Snyder Cut needed to generate to continue an investment in the SnyderVerse. You see, the rallying cry following the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League has been #RestoreTheSnyderVerse. Snyder’s four-hour movie ends on a cliffhanger, and the director has teased directions of where he’d like his story to go, including Superman (Henry Cavill) consumed by the Anti-Life that Steppenwolf found on Earth in Justice League, and Batman having to assemble a team in the Knightmare Future.
AT&T not mentioning Justice League or singling it out as a success during the earnings report is cause for concern for fans who want to see Zack Snyder continue telling his DC stories. The story is forever evolving, and plenty of things can change that would allow Zack Snyder to return to DC and finish off his five-film story arc (of which fans have only seen three). But Warner Bros. calling it a trilogy, and WarnerMedia betting big on upcoming DC theatrical projects like The Flash and Matt Reeves’ The Batman meant that the Snyder Cut community needed a bigger number from this report to truly turn the tide, and right now, I’m not sure this is the number they were hoping for. More as this story develops.