You probably noticed WarnerMedia C.E.O. Jason Kilar doing a bit of a victory lap this week. AT&T revealed on Wednesday that HBO and HBO Max hit 73.8 million subscribers worldwide in 2021, beating the company’s 70-73 million target. AT&T didn’t detail the linear vs. digital split, or the U.S. vs. overseas breakdown, so it’s not totally possible to gauge the impact of “Project Popcorn,” Kilar’s controversial experiment of dropping Warners’ 2021 movies on HBO Max in the U.S. on the same the day that they were appeared in theaters. And who knows how many Max subs will churn when consumers realize that they aren’t getting exclusives, like Matrix and Dune, in 2022? Still, in a year HBO Max has gone from streaming also-ran to serious player.
Jason offered to chat with me about the numbers, but he made the media rounds, so I figured I’d wait until after his other interviews posted to hopefully ask what wasn’t asked. We talked later in the week about the legacy of Project Popcorn, an update on WarnerMedia’s spinoff to Discovery, the CW sale, whether he’ll push The Batman due to Covid, and what he might do next after the spinoff closes (spoiler: he wouldn’t tell me). I trimmed and edited this for space and clarity.
Matt Belloni: I was among the critics of Project Popcorn, and I still have questions about it. But it’s clear that you did what you set out to do you: Raise HBO Max subs, beat the number, survive the pandemic. Are you doing a victory lap now?