Max Launches with Brand Takeover and Interactive Ad Formats

Dan Meier 23 May, 2023 

Max, the new streaming service from Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), launched today in the US. The company announced a raft of advertising features for its AVOD tier, Max with Ads, priced at $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year.

The new streaming service replaces HBO Max, and brings together content from HBO Max and Discovery+ (which remains available as a standalone platform). And the ad offering also combines products from both services, including “innovative and non-traditional” formats.

As promised at last week’s Upfronts presentation, the ad-supported tier carries 3-4 minutes of ads per hour. WBD’s streaming chief JB Perrette called this “one of the lightest ad loads in streaming,” allowing the ad formats to “minimise disruption to storytelling.”

The products include 15-second pre-roll ads that play before the selected content, as well as 15- or 30-second mid-roll ads, which run during 30- or 60-second ad breaks. And advertisers can buy pause ads, static ads that appear when the user pauses a stream.

The AVOD service additionally offers daily ‘Takeovers’, guaranteeing advertisers the pre-roll slot and the first mid-roll in every consumer’s first stream of the day. Advertisers can also ‘Brand Block’ a piece of content, taking up every ad slot in a stream.

Max also supports an ‘InFront’ product, which features a brand’s ads before the content plays, and eliminates all mid-roll advertising. According to WBD, this format “allows brands to sponsor an exclusive ad-free experience for viewers.”

Max then offers a selection of interactive mid-roll ads, as described by WBD:

  • One-Click Reveal – Reveal a surprise message, promotion, or trivia answer upon scrolling.
  • Carousel – Curated ad experience where brands can showcase multiple products.
  • Extendable – Users are able to open up a branded hub on their mobile or connected TV device to interact further with the ad in an immersive fashion.
  • Locator – Encourages in-store purchases by informing viewers of nearby merchants.

Installing updates

As well as the ad offering, WBD promoted the enhanced personalisation features on Max compared with its predecessor. Where HBO Max only featured content recommendations on the home screen, Max provides recommendations for each user profile based on individual viewing activity. When a viewer finishes a series, a “genre outro” end-card will suggest other content to watch.

The content itself is twice that of HBO Max, folding in Discovery titles from HGTV, Food Network and TLC. The service also offers a premium tier that includes 4K UHD content and up to four concurrent streams; plus a default kids profile for new subscribers with parental controls. Existing HBO Max customers will see their app automatically update or be prompted to download the Max app, with their settings and watchlists migrating alongside the update.

WBD announced that Max was built on new code in order to stabilise streaming, suggesting the app would be at least 20 percent faster than HBO Max. From next month, the company plans to implement updates every few weeks. The service will also roll out in Latin America later this year, according to the company, with European and Asia-Pacific launches planned in 2024.

At its Upfronts presentation, the company also unveiled its WBD Stream product for advertisers. This offers access to content across its digital portfolio, including the websites and apps for its Discovery brands. As this inventory is sold separately from the streaming services, the company said WBD Stream acts as a complementary product to its Discovery+ and Max offerings.

“WBD has a proven track record launching two successful streaming platforms and delivering a precise combination of ad products for maximum efficacy,” added Jon Steinlauf, chief US Advertising Sales Officer at WBD. “We’ve had a wide array of advertisers across categories align with our premium storytelling to create impactful brand partnerships.”

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