Bell Media has entered into a deal with Warner Bros. to bring the library of shows connected to the forthcoming streaming service HBO Max to Canada.
Bell wouldn’t specify the exact length of the licencing arrangement, which would see the content broadcast on CTV channels and made available for streaming on Crave, but it is understood to be a “long term” deal that deepens the relationship between the two companies.
The move, which effectively makes HBO Max available now as part of Crave, strengthens Bell’s direct-to-consumer streaming service at a time when competition is going into overdrive in the subscription entertainment market.
Randy Lennox, president of Bell Media, told the Financial Post that he hopes Crave will be seen as a reliable destination for prestige TV shows and movies, and that consumers will subscribe to the Bell service instead of sifting through dozens of smaller upstarts.
“I think the confusion is that every Tom, Dick and Harry has wagons west going for gold, and I respect that, but at the same time not everyone can win,” he said.
“The marketplace in and of itself is confused, and Crave is the antidote to that confusion.”
But even just within the deal announced Tuesday, the branding situation hints at just how confusing things are getting.
HBO is the prestige brand behind the shows Game of Thrones and Big Little Lies.
HBO Max, meanwhile, is a soon-to-be launched streaming service that will include both HBO content, but also original and licenced TV shows and movies from the broader array of entertainment companies owned by U.S. telecom giant AT&T and its subsidiary Warner Media.
We will certainly be raising our Crave subscriber forecasts based on Bell’s procurement of HBO Max
In Canada, HBO content has already been available inside Crave, but Wednesday’s announcement means the “lion’s share” of the HBO Max library will also now become available to the 2.7 million Crave subscribers, according to Lennox.
That content will not all appear in Crave at once. Part of the reason Bell has been able to secure streaming rights for American content is because they’re bidding to broadcast it on traditional TV as well.
“There will be Max content on CTV first, and then subsequently Crave. There will be other Max content that goes directly to Crave,” Lennox said. “So we have the flexibility, if you will, of really using curation intelligence. If we feel there’s a drama that would fit the previous Bravo — now called CTV Drama — we may go first-run on CTV, but all roads will end up on Crave.”
Brahm Eiley with Convergence Research, a market research company that covers telecom and media content, said this looks like good news for Crave.
“We will certainly be raising our Crave subscriber forecasts based on Bell’s procurement of HBO Max,” he said in an email.
“Bell continues to be successful in locking down U.S. (streaming) players which would otherwise become competition.”
My prediction is Crave will rebrand to HBO Max in 18 months or less
In addition to HBO content, Crave has licenced Starz, Showtime and flagship CBS series such as the forthcoming Star Trek: Picard.
But Kaan Yigit, with SRG Consultants, which does market research on consumer trends related to technology and video entertainment, said that we’re in an increasingly competitive entertainment landscape — new offerings are coming from Disney and Apple, in addition to Netflix and Amazon already in the field — and in that context, the HBO Max deal makes Crave look a lot like HBO Canada.
“The bigger move would have been to rebrand Crave to HBO Max and benefit from the HBO brand halo and the huge amount of cross-border marketing spillover but I suspect there are rights and as well monetary barriers to that at the moment,” Yigit said.
“‘Crave has HBO shows’ is too many words compared to ‘HBO Max’ My prediction is Crave will rebrand to HBO Max in 18 months or less or risk being irrelevant next to larger global players.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019