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HBO Max recruiting for Head of Content in India; launch in the country soon?

While the platform’s entry into the Indian streaming market would allow viewers to catch up on exclusive content, the launch might also affect other services like Netflix and Disney+Hotstar. 

HBO Max may be coming to India. WarnerMedia, the multibillion-dollar media conglomerate that owns the streaming service, has put out a job posting for Head of Content in India on LinkedIn. The listing was spotted by IGN India; almost 1,000 people have already applied for the role on the professional social media site. The listing is looking for someone who can:

Define and implement the strategy for the future of Indian content for WarnerMedia and HBO MAX in India, overseeing commissioning and original production, content partnerships and acquisitions [and]

Lead the growth and success of WarnerMedia’s Indian content library both regionally and globally.

Warner trademarked HBO Max in India as early as October 2019. Last September, Gerhard Zeiler, President of WarnerMedia International, said at an event that the “workhorse” for scaling up Warner’s presence in India was going to be HBO Max, indicating that the service would launch soon here. What’s more, the company in June hired Amit Malhotra, a Disney veteran who oversaw the launch of Hotstar in Southeast Asia, as Managing Director for HBO Max in Southeast Asia and India; the company then said that he would lead a “potential future launch in India”. WarnerMedia declined to comment further.

Why an HBO Max launch in India matters

For one, if the service launches in India, it would likely end Indian streaming services’ access to WarnerMedia content. The hardest hit would likely be Disney+ Hotstar, which has been streaming the bulk of HBO’s TV shows for years. From Game of Thrones to White Lotus, years of hit HBO shows would likely come back under the direct control of HBO.

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There are also one-off specials that are exclusive to HBO Max that run on other streaming services, another practice that would stop. A television special bringing together the cast and crew of the wildly popular series Friends, amassed one million views on ZEE5, the platform that snapped up the special’s India rights in the absence of a WarnerMedia-owned streaming service in the country. As IGN points out, even Netflix has a lot of DC Comics content that may go to HBO Max.

Where would HBO Max fit in in India’s streaming market?

All in all, the premium English-language streaming service is a small slice of the overall OTT pie. But that doesn’t mean it’s something to be sneered at — Hollywood and American TV viewers in India have moved a bulk of their viewing online. The shift has been so complete that WarnerMedia last October announced that it would discontinue its HBO and WB channels on TV. If and when HBO Max launches in India, even among the limited English-language OTT market, it would have a lot of big players to coexist (and compete) with. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, Discovery+, Hotstar, and Voot Select already have a formidable catalogue and attractive pricing.

Warner will therefore have to figure out a way to compete on price all while having a business model that is more appealing than licensing content out to other streaming services like Hotstar. And create compelling local content, which is what they’re currently hiring for. How that works out, we’ll see soon.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

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