A recent report by Bloomberg revealed that HBO NOW saw impressive subscriber growth in 2017, increasing from 2 million subscribers to 5 million subscribers in about one year. The report attributed much of that growth to subscriptions generated through streaming platforms such as Amazon Channels, which enables Prime subscribers to add additional streaming services to their Prime account. Mintel ePerformance/eDataSource estimates that Amazon drove at least two-thirds of HBO NOW’s 2017 subscriber growth by heavily marketing HBO NOW to Prime customers, offering free trial opportunities and encouraging affiliates to spread the word.

HBO NOW debut on Amazon Channels

HBO NOW first became available via Amazon Channels in December 2016. At this time, Amazon notified members of Amazon Associates about HBO NOW availability on the platform. Members of the Associates program are Amazon partners that abide by the company’s guidelines to refer traffic from their own sites to Amazon.com, earning a commission or “bounty” when their referral results in a purchase. Amazon notified affiliates that they could earn $3 each time one of their visitors signed up for a free trial. Beginning in December and continuing into January 2017, Amazon notified Prime customers of HBO NOW’s availability, promoting a free, 30-day trial in emails like the one below. After an email blitz of more than 5 million emails promoting HBO on Amazon Channels in December, Mintel ePerformance/eDataSource estimates that Amazon sent more than 300K HBO NOW trial initiation emails, followed by more than 200K in January.

Game of Thrones drove sign-ups

Expectedly, July saw a high number of sign-ups likely due to the Season 7 debut of the highly popular show Game of Thrones. Mintel ePerformance/eDataSource estimates Amazon sent around 1.5 million HBO NOW welcome emails during the month. August was also a stellar month for HBO NOW sign-ups on Amazon Channels, likely due to the continuing season of GoT. It is worth noting that Amazon Channels’ HBO NOW free trial length decreased from 30 days to seven in February 2017, making it more difficult for customers to watch full seasons of content without continuing their subscription beyond the trial. (Outside of Amazon, however, HBO NOW promoted a free 30-day trial directly to prospects in July, encouraging them to watch the new season of GoT.) HBO NOW gained more than 2 million subscribers from Amazon Channels in 2017.

Millions of new subscribers

Overall, Amazon sent upwards of 7 million HBO NOW service initiation emails over the course of 2017. But, like most streaming video services, HBO NOW saw its fair share of churn, and Amazon sent more than 5 million cancellation confirmation emails in 2017. The largest share of these emails was observed in September, following the conclusion of GoT Season 7. Based on email communications alone, Mintel ePerformance/eDataSource estimates that HBO NOW gained more than 2 million subscribers from Amazon Channels in 2017.

Looking ahead

As outlined in Mintel’s 2018 Telecommunications Marketing Trend 'The Great Re-bundling,' streaming providers will develop new approaches to bundling that enable better customization and integration of content. HBO NOW on Amazon Channels is a great success story, and other streaming providers are no doubt paying close attention to its subscriber gains. HBO NOW’s success may help accelerate streaming bundles on other platforms such as DIRECTV NOW, Hulu, or Sling TV. Additionally, we expect to see these partnerships evolve even further, as these types of bundles pave the way for new strategies to reduce subscriber churn, such as loyalty programs and bundled perks. It will be an exciting space to watch.