- Ads are coming to HBO original series like "Game of Thrones" on HBO Max.
- It's a reversal from HBO Max's initial approach when it launched its ad-supported tier in 2021.
Don't be surprised if you start seeing commercials popping up in new places on HBO Max.
HBO Max launched an ad-supported tier in June 2021. For $10 a month, versus the $15 ad-free version, subscribers get access to the catalog in exchange for seeing up to four minutes of ads per hour and forfeiting such features as the functionality to download content and see same-day release films.
HBO Max has kept commercials off its most prestigious programming — HBO originals series like "Mare of Easttown" and "Game of Thrones" (though ads appear in HBO Max originals like "The Flight Attendant" and "Hacks"). At the service's launch, Andy Forssell, then HBO Max EVP and GM, called the plan an effort to create an "elegant, tasteful ad experience that is respectful of great storytelling."
But that experience is about to change now that HBO Max's parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, is planning to run ads around shows like "Game of Thrones" and "House of the Dragon."
More ads are coming to streaming TV generally as media companies try to expand their subscriber bases with lower-cost plans while tapping into advertisers' appetite to reach the growing streaming viewership. See: new ad tiers from Netflix, which for years resisted selling ads, and Disney+.
With HBO Max, WBD is racing to make streaming profitable while slashing debt. To that end, the company also plans to combine HBO Max with sibling Discovery+ into a new streaming service that will launch in the spring of 2023. Also in the company's plans for next year is a free ad-supported streamer — joining such services as Fox-owned Tubi and Paramount's Pluto TV.
Still, running ads around HBO originals could turn off viewers (and possibly anger creators and HBO staff who are protective of the content) — prompt the question of whether WBD risks dimming some of the sparkle of its content crown jewel.