By: Raul Cruz
“Change brings opportunities,” is one of the key messages that Jennifer Mirgorod, head of Sales and Account Management at WarnerMedia Sales and Distribution, delivered to the members of the Media Management Association during a popular Zoom session about her company’s streaming service, HBO Max. Mirgorod graduated with a BA in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia and spent nearly two decades working for Turner Broadcasting in various executive positions in advertising and sales.
Prior to her current position, Mirgorod was an executive vice president in Partnership Management at WarnerMedia, where she was responsible for linear and digital account management for North American TV networks, including HBO, TNT, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, truTV, HLN, Boomerang, TCM, CNN en Español, and CNN International. With HBO Max, Mirgorod’s job is to make sure that the companies working with the streaming service do their part to promote it.
Before addressing questions from students, Mirgorod presented the basic facts about HBO Max. HBO Max is the latest effort from AT&T’s WarnerMedia to capitalize on the current streaming market. During her presentation, Mirgorod stated that the goal of HBO Max was to expand upon what HBO has done in the past to obtain a wide range of subscribers. From franchises like DC, Studio Ghibli, and Sesame Street to popular library titles, such as Friends and Gossip Girl, Mirgorod believes that HBO Max will be able to attract a broader audience than HBO. WarnerMedia launched HBO Max in May 2020, with subscribers to HBO Now (the previous iteration of HBO streaming) given automatic access to it.
One strategy that has captured a massive amount of attention was WarnerMedia’s decision to have all its 2021 feature films released on HBO Max at the same time as they would be released in theaters. Mirgorod admitted that this so-called “day-and-date” approach elicited negative reactions in the Hollywood trade press. But thus far it has proved to be a success for HBO Max by allowing the streaming service to increase its subscriber count. She added that if theatrical releases had been postponed until 2022, it would have been difficult to release all these backlogged titles, in addition to the current ones, in movie theaters during the year 2022.
“Change brings opportunities,” she said.
Clearly, this decision took into account the ongoing effects of COVID-19 (not to mention an even higher demand for streaming content throughout the pandemic), but it has also led to a more streamlined approach towards advertising and marketing strategies for WarnerMedia. Some examples of such strategies included the service’s launch on Roku devices in October 2020, followed by another launch on Amazon Fire devices in November. The service is also scheduled to launch in Latin American markets in June 2021.
Mirgorod also noted that, unlike Netflix, HBO Max does not release the episodes of a series all at once, but instead makes available one to three episodes per week to keep viewers interested in the content over time. Thus, this practice was designed to serve customers, but it could also annoy some of them who prefer to “binge-view” all episodes of a series.
Regarding the future of HBO Max, Mirgorod cited relevant topics like human curation (something she claimed to be quite appealing for HBO Max’s image) and data science as key factors that could help the platform. She stated that data science is a field that will be in greater demand as the streaming wars continue because it has the ability to determine what works and what doesn’t in a service.
Content licensing will also affect the future of streaming, as more services, such as Peacock from NBCUniversal and Paramount+ from ViacomCBS, continue to stir up the market and reclaim their previously licensed programming. With HBO Max, Mirgorod hopes to market a service that provides a broad and unique range of content that will appeal to any demographic group. In the age of streaming, it is important to be bigger and better than rival competitors.