HBO Max posts strong growth in 2021 even as its now sister streamer CNN+ prepares to shut down

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Even as Warner Bros. Discovery was fresh off announcing it would shut down its CNN+ streamer after less than a month of operation, the company’s HBO Max platform posted some good news.

In an investor event Thursday, April 21, 2022, former HBO owner AT&T reported that HBO and HBO Max added 13 million subscribers in 2021, including 3 million in the last quarter.

AT&T sold HBO parent WarnerMedia to Discovery in April 2022, but since it owned the company as of 2021, it still reported its financials from then.

Combined, HBO and HBO Max now have 76.8 million subscribers worldwide, which still pales in comparison to Netflix’s 221.64 million and Disney+’s 129.8 million — though both of those services have been around for longer.

Netflix, however, reported a net loss in subscribers for the first time in years earlier in the week, sending its stock falling and sparking news that the company would crack down on password sharing in an effort to boost revenue and subscriber counts.

Discovery+, the streamer previously owned by Discovery and now part of the WBD empire, had an estimated 22 million subscribers at the close of 2021.

You might be tempted to add Discovery+’s 22 million and HBO’s 76.8 to get just under 99 million, but that’s not exactly a fair comparison, because it doesn’t include people who receive Discovery’s linear cable channels.

HBO’s count, however, includes linear HBO subscribers who may or may not use the streaming service that comes bundled with the premium channel.

Netflix don’t have any traditional linear channels and Hulu only includes access to live linear TV in select packages.

Either way, WBD has announced it intends to eventually merge HBO Max and Discovery+ into a single, yet-to-be-named service and also says it will be looking for ways to integrate CNN content with it.

WBD leadership appears committed to the CNN brand and including it in its broader streaming plans.

In fact, numerous reports are surfacing that Discovery execs would have preferred that CNN held off on launching its streaming service just weeks before the merger closed so that the two companies could discuss a combined streaming strategy, but the two companies legally couldn’t discuss those matters while the deal was pending.

Instead, CNN+ will go down in history as what is apparently the shortest lived streaming services ever that also happened to cost over $300 million to launch, generated minimal revenue and could cost hundreds of people their jobs.