Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Tuesday, May 23rd, 2023
Max launches and it's everything you expected it to be....
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Tuesday, May 23rd, 2023.
MAX LAUNCHES AND IT'S EVERYTHING YOU EXPECTED IT TO BE
Max, or the streaming service formerly known as HBO Max, officially launched today and it's...fine. Aside from the login problems some people dealt with early in the day, the service does seem to run a bit faster than the previous incarnation. And there have been some UX tweaks which make it a little easier to use, including making it possible to manually remove titles from your "Continue Watching" que.
But there are still some perplexing UX choices, although I would expect some of them will be corrected during the official roll-out. For instance, for whatever reason the "Continue Watching" row wasn't anywhere to be seen in my profile in the Roku version of the app. Although it was there in the web version. A bigger problem for me is that everything is now curated by Max into pre-assigned categories or genres. The only way to search titles A-Z is by genre, so while you can search A-Z in "comedy," to see everything that is available, you'd have to search through each of the 15 sub-categories in the series section. I'm assuming there are some classic TV titles still on Max, although there's no way to look for them other than by searching through everything. I realize you can't have an app with 60 sub-categories, but there are some unexpected choices when it comes to what is and isn't highlighted.
Another odd choice is the way kids programming is highlighted. Every time someone at Warner Bros. Discovery has talked about the new Max, they've made a point of stressing how important kids programming is to the success of the service. And yet, Max doesn't put kids programming front and center in the UI. In fact, it can be a bit hard to find.
I understand the desire to simplify the top-of-the-app tabs. But adding a "kids" tab to the five choices available doesn't feel like it would add any clutter. And if you are indeed prioritizing kids programming, that would be an easy place to start. It might have also made sense to add a kids programming choice as one of the selections in the top of the page rotating promo carousel. I saw a number of titles rotate through that window today as I looked at the app on different platforms. But nothing kids or family related, other than one tease for Teen Titans Go! And in that case, pushing to the kids programming section might have made more sense. It's the approach Max took with its promo window for Sex And The City.
The new animated series Gremlins: Secrets Of The Mogwai did show up in the promo window in the "New" tab. But even with that series, if you look at what is listed under "You May Also Like," there are some very un-kids like programming suggestions.
This might sound like being picky, but content discovery was always a problem with HBO Max and that seems to have carried over into the new app. Pushing people into watching things they might want to see (especially if they don't know it yet) is something that Netflix does better than anyone else. It's not a sexy way to spend money or get attention. But anyone I've spoken with who does it for a living has told me it's the most effective way to reduce churn and increase customer engagement. But it requires constant curation and the ability to override temporary internal marketing goals. The best way to keep customers happy is to give them the best, most useful version of your app.
And one last quibble…it’s fine to have a category called “Last Chance.” But why not include the date the title is leaving? HBO Max did include exit dates very early on, but that quickly disappeared.
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AND ON THE OTHER HAND
Have you ever filled out a survey for some restaurant or random consumer product and been asked about your emotional connection to the brand? "When you eat our Jalapeno Meat Sticks, does it fill that gaping hole in your soul? Pick a number 1-5."
There is nothing corporate marketing people like better than campaigns that attempt to build an emotional response to their product. And I get it. Those types of campaigns are fun to execute and it's the type of marketing that you can show off to your bosses. "I don't know why sales have dropped. Didn't you see the pop-up activation and the expensive billboards?"
I was reminded about all of this when I read this piece in Marketing Brew which outlined the approach taken to launch Max by Warner Bros. Discovery Streaming global CMO Pato Spagnoletto.
He explains the streamer's marketing campaign had three phases. Phase one was designed to introduce the fact there is a new service company, complete with a new blue branding approach:
By the middle of May, the campaign will shift to a second phase, Spagnoletto said, one focused on building emotional connections with prospective and existing subscribers. Issa Rae, Jason Momoa, Chip and Joanna Gaines, and other onscreen stars from Warner Bros. Discovery shows and movies will participate in the campaign, Spagnoletto said. A third marketing phase will kick off after the platform officially debuts, and has a more straightforward approach: Encouraging consumers to sign up if they haven’t already.
There is nothing wrong with the approach, but it's a very old-school marketing plan and it doesn't reflect that nuances facing anyone trying to sell the new Max. Take, for instance, this little tidbit:
Advertising creative for the campaign will include imagery from hits like Shark Week and Sesame Street to showcase the wide variety of programming available, all featuring Max’s new tagline, “The One to Watch.” Certain elements of the campaign nod to HBO’s long history of dominating Sunday night viewing: On one billboard, the cast of Succession looms over a reminder that Max is “the one to watch on Sundays.”
And there is the challenge. Yes, reminding people about HBO Sundays makes sense. But it's problematic when you're promoting an HBO series on a streaming service that used to be called HBO Max. So when you see the billboard below...
Is your first response, "Oh, I can still watch Succession on Max?" or "Hey, I thought this used to be on HBO Max?"
Granted, they can't really run a marketing campaign with the tagline "Max: HBO is gone from the name, but not from our catalog!"
But all snark aside, the success of Max will not rise and fall on whether anyone feels an emotional connection to the service. In fact, I'd argue its success will be less about emotion and more about practicality and usability. Which isn't the sexiest thing to sell.
ONE LAST MAX NOTE
Some long-time HBO Max subscribers are unhappy with the pricing on the new Max:
THE GREAT NETFLIX PASSWORD SHARING CRACKDOWN IS HERE
After rolling out the plan in several other regions over the past six months, Netflix announced today that its efforts to cut down on password sharing is rolling out in North America, Latin America and parts of Europe and the Middle East:
The move has been expected and if the reaction here is the same as the one seen elsewhere, there will be an initial drop in subscriber numbers, followed by a gradual uptick. Because while some people who be annoyed at the move and will cancel, it ends up not being a deal breaker for a lot of people once they consider the options.
WHAT'S NEW FOR TUESDAY:
* Afghan Dreamers (Paramount+)
* Bama Rush (Max)
* Beat Shazam Season Premiere (Fox)
* Clone High Series Premiere (Max)
* Don't Forget The Lyrics Season Premiere (Fox)
* FBI International Season Finale (CBS)
* FBI Most Wanted Season Finale (CBS)
* German Genius (Max)
* Gremlins: Secrets Of The Magwai Series Premiere (Max)
* Growing Floret Season Premiere (Magnolia)
* How I Met Your Father Season 2B Premiere (Hulu)
* How To Create A Sex Scandal (Max)
* Maine Cabin Masters Season Premiere (Magnolia)
* MerPeople (Netflix)
* Mission Unexplained Series Premiere (Science)
* Prisoners Of The Snow (Hulu)
* Smartless: On The Road Series Premiere (Max) [first look video]* Teresa Gets Married (Bravo)
* Victim/Suspect (Netflix)
* Wanda Sykes: I'm An Entertainer (Netflix)
* What Am I Eating? With Zooey Deschanel Series Premiere (Max)
* Windy City Rehab Season Premiere (HGTV)
Click Here to see the list of all of the upcoming premiere dates for the next few months.
SEE YOU WEDNESDAY!
If you have any feedback, send it along to Rick@AllYourScreens.com and follow me on Twitter @aysrick.