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HBO Max hits 8.6 million accounts 4 months after launch

AT&T's latest figures for the newer, bigger streaming service from HBO contrast with the more than 10 million signups Disney Plus scored in little more than 24 hours at launch.

HBO Max launched in late May, an initially bumpy rollout. 
Angela Lang/CNET

HBO Max has hit 8.6 million accounts, HBO parent company AT&T said Thursday in its latest quarterly report. 

By comparison, Disney Plus reported more than 10 million signups in little more than 24 hours after it launched in November. Disney Plus, which at $7 a month is less than half the cost of $15-a-month HBO Max, grew to 60.5 million subscribers by about eight months after its launch. HBO Max's goal is to reach 50 million subscribers in the US by 2025. 

It's tricky to define exactly how many total paying subscribers HBO Max has. The company doesn't directly release that info. In July, AT&T had noted HBO Max had 4.1 million signups for its service in its first month; that indicates HBO Max drew in roughly the same number of new accounts in three months as it did in the very first. But these numbers could count people who signed up for limited-time free trials and then didn't stick around as actual subscribers. 

HBO Max also is somewhat unique among streaming rivals, in that 28.7 million people have access to the service at no added cost: All they have to do is download the app and sign up. So far, AT&T's numbers on HBO Max suggest that a fraction of those people have actually done so. It seems to be a growing fraction, but a fraction nonetheless. 

AT&T would like to characterize these 28.7 million as HBO Max subscribers, arguing that these customers are technically already paying for HBO Max because Max is included free with other services they already pay for. But tens of millions of these "subscribers" have never touched HBO Max, casting some incredulity on whether these people really count as Max subscribers. 

HBO Max, the streaming service from AT&T's WarnerMedia, launched in late May as another splashy new service in the so-called streaming wars, a seven-month period when media and technology giants rolled out their takes on streaming TV. Just like Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus and NBCUniversal's Peacock, HBO Max hopes its particular mix of shows, movies and originals will hook you on its vision for TV's future. These emerging rivalries may seem like big-budget corporate flexing, but they affect how many services you must use -- and pay for -- to watch your favorite shows and movies online. 

Correction, 6:13 a.m. PT: An earlier version of this story miscalculated HBO Max's total activations so far. HBO Max has 8.6 million activations total. 

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