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HBO Max cheaper, ad-supported tier to launch in June -- without Dune, Matrix 4

AT&T didn't specify how much this cheaper tier will cost -- and you'll still have to fork over $15 a month if you want to watch theatrical movies like Suicide Squad, Matrix 4 or Dune.

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Angela Lang/CNET

HBO Max will launch a cheaper, ad-supported tier of its US streaming service in June, adding commercials to its programming in exchange for a discount to its now $15-a-month subscription price. Parent company AT&T didn't specify the price for the new HBO Max membership level, though it may clarify how much it costs during an investor presentation later Friday.

But the ad-supported version of HBO Max won't let you stream any of the newest Warner Bros. movies, like The Suicide Squad, Dune and The Matrix 4, which Max is making available at home the same day those movies hit theaters. Only subscribers to the ad-free tier can watch those. 

The newer, cheaper tier also won't splice commercials inside the original HBO programming that's never run with advertising on one of HBO's own platforms before, according to Jason Kilar, the CEO of AT&T's WarnerMedia unit that operates HBO Max. Kilar, however, didn't discuss whether commercials could run before original HBO programming, in what's known as pre-roll advertising. 

AT&T also plans to expand HBO Max to 39 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean in late June, followed by 21 countries in Europe in the second half of the year, the company said in a press release prior to its analyst day

At $15 a month, HBO Max is the most expensive streaming service of its kind in the US. Disney Plus, for example, is $7 a month, rising to $8 later this month. NBCUniversal's Peacock has a limited ad-supported tier that's totally free and another that unlocks its entire library with ads for $5 a month. Netflix's most popular plan is closest to HBO Max in cost, after Netflix hiked the price to $14 a month last year in the US. Netflix's premium plan costs more than HBO Max but offers perks HBO Max doesn't match, like a big catalog of programming in high-quality formats like 4K and HDR. 

With the launch of the ad-supported version and the international expansion, AT&T said it now expects to have between 120 million and 150 million subscribers to HBO Max and HBO by 2025, up from its projections of 75 million to 90 million set in October 2019. For comparison, Disney this week said it has surpassed 100 million members for Disney Plus after just 16 months of availability, while industry-leader Netflix ended last year with more than 200 million global subscribers

AT&T expects to end 2021 with between 67 million and 70 million subscribers to its HBO products worldwide, up from about 61 million at the end of last year. 

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