Malone high on Apple, down on HBO as streaming wars heat up

Liberty chief John Malone
Liberty Media Chairman John Malone (Liberty Media)

John Malone, chairman of Liberty Media, has conflicting views on how Apple TV+ and HBO Max will handle the increasingly competitive streaming video marketplace.

He told CNBC that Apple TV+ could be one of fastest growing new subscription services in terms of subscribers.

“Apple is going to surprise everyone with numbers they achieve in a short period of time. Even though they’re thin on content ... when you start with 460 consumer relationships, and you give them something for free, that’s a very interesting way to get large numbers fast,” the TV industry veteran told David Faber this week.

Apple officially debuted Apple TV+ earlier this month. The service is priced at $4.99 per month, but the company is giving it away free for one year to consumers to purchase a new new iPhones, iPads or Apple TV devices.

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Malone is not, however, as optimistic about HBO Max. The service, which is scheduled to launch in May 2020 priced at $14.99, will have a mix of exclusive originals and HBO content along with licensed and library films and series. At launch, AT&T will offer HBO Max to the approximately 10 million HBO subscribers on AT&T distribution platforms, at no additional charge. HBO Now direct-billed users who subscribe directly through will also have access to WarnerMedia’s HBO Max product. AT&T customers on premium video, mobile and broadband services will be offered bundles with HBO Max included at no additional charge.

The company wants to have 50 million domestic subscribers and 75-90 million premium subscribers by year-end in 2025 across the U.S., Latin America and Europe.

Malone, again speaking with CNBC, cast some doubt on the strategy.

“I don’t see the growth for HBO in going this route,” said Malone. “I really have trouble seeing HBO being able to get the scale to be able to be at the top of the chart in terms of direct consumer subscribers.”