One Specific Way HBO Max Rose Above Netflix And Disney+ In 2021

HBO Max logo.
(Image credit: HBO Max)

The competition between streaming services is stiffer than ever with platforms premiering and growing in certain ways to even rival the original giant itself: Netflix. While Netflix will undoubtedly remain on top when it comes to the sheer number of originals released for the foreseeable future, and Disney+ may have cornered the market in terms of the biggest franchise releases via streaming, HBO Max rose above both in a very specific way in the past year: app downloads.

According to data compiled by Apptopia for the leaders in app downloads, HBO Max holds a top spot at the end of 2021 as the #1 Most Downloaded Entertainment App in the United States, with 46 million. That puts it well ahead of Netflix, with 38 million, and Disney+ with its 37 million. Peacock TV and Hulu come in fourth and fifth with 30 million and 29 million respectively, and Amazon Prime Video ranks eighth with 25 million. According to the report, HBO Max is the fastest-growing streaming subscription service. The figures are a combination of data from iOS and Google Play. 

While HBO Max rising above some major competition as the Most Downloaded Entertainment App is certainly good news for a streamer that launched less than two years ago, that doesn’t mean it’s dominating the competition. Subscribers are not limited to one download and can have the app installed on multiple devices. Plus, app download does not necessarily translate to hours of content being viewed, and with Disney+ launching in 2019 and Netflix dominating the streaming game for many years, it’s possible that there are simply more people with those apps already downloaded rather than needing to download fresh over the past year. 

Additionally, HBO Max holds the #7 spot on the list of Most Downloaded Entertainment Apps worldwide as opposed to the top spot in the United States, with Netflix at #1, Disney+ at #4, and Amazon Prime Video at #5 worldwide. That said, it is worth noting that HBO Max is currently unavailable in many markets internationally, so it might jump up in the worldwide ranking as it becomes more widely available. 

Plus, it has a spot in some other notable categories. Other than YouTube at #9, HBO Max is the only streamer that made the rankings of 10 Most Downloaded Apps in 2021 in the United States, so the growing popularity isn’t just impressive when compared to other entertainment apps. In 2020, both Disney+ and Netflix made that list. The HBO streamer has established itself among the biggest players in the game, and it may continue growing into 2022 and beyond. 

It should be interesting to see what the platform does next when it comes to original series. The Flight Attendant was a major hit with fans and critics alike, although Kaley Cuoco still has yet to win a major acting award for her television work. If a Game of Thrones spinoff does make it to the streamer as an HBO Max original, as has been rumored, that would likely boost the popularity. More superhero projects are also on the way beyond Young Justice (which is currently halfway through its fourth season) and Titans

Plus, with some big film releases timed to theatrical debuts (not to mention Zack Snyder’s Justice League back in March 2021), HBO Max has found a niche when it comes to movies as well, which should continue when The Batman makes its streaming debut, and the Batgirl film on the way.

Only time will tell how the various streamers continue to compare moving forward. Options like Paramount+ and Peacock haven’t established themselves as major players as of the end of 2021, but that could well be different in 2022 as they continue to expand their libraries of originals. After all, if HBO Max could come out on top of Netflix and Disney+ in an app category so relatively quickly, can we rule much of anything out for next year? HBO Max may get off to a strong start with the 20th anniversary celebration of the Harry Potter films with many stars reuniting, and a lot could happen in the next twelve months.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).