Does the news that the friends’ cast is going to reunite for the brand new HBO Max streaming service that’s going to be launched in May 2021 excite you? Yes, the news has sent a wave of excitement among their fans across the world. But there is a piece of not-so-pleasant news and it is that the Friends Reunion Special will not be available for viewing for their fans outside the USA. However, they can take the VPN route to watch this iconic gang of sitcom artists. We will discuss this later in this article.
Friends as a full cast was last seen on TV in 2004. After over 15 years, Monica, Chandler, Rachel, Phoebe, and Joey are going to reunite for the HBO Max special. The subscribers of this new streaming service can also watch all 236 episodes of the sitcom that were broadcast till 2004. The finale of the friends’ series, which was aired last in May 2004, had drawn over 52.5 million viewers.
Do you still remember the final scene from friends?
Kevin Reilly, HBO Max’s chief content officer says the audience will call the new streaming service the place where the Friends Reunion took place. Confirming the news, the cast members posted a cover photo of their show in the early days. They wrote: “It’s happening.” The Friends Reunion Special is still untitled and unscripted and the older version has been removed from Netflix, where it was one of the most-watched sitcoms, only about a week ago. What is sure about the upcoming Friends series that it will be shot at the sitcom’s original sound stage.
According to the industry grapevine, each of the six actors — Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer – is likely to receive from $2.5 million to $3 million per episode.
HBO Max: How the finances stack up
The WarnerMedia division of the AT&T has reported a $1.2-billion revenue loss in the latest quarter because of its investments in the upcoming streaming service that it thinks will pay off generously in the long run. In particular, WarnerMedia lost a substantial amount of revenue by not forging content licensing with other streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix so that it can make these contents available exclusively on HBO Max. The objective is to bring all top-performing content to HBO Max as an exclusive offer to its subscribers. AT&T has created a $4-billion war chest that it will spend on a host of original series to compete with other established and upcoming streaming services like Disney+, Apple TV Plus, and Netflix.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson confessed before the investors at an HBO Max event that the company does not think HBO Max is going to be profitable until 2004-2005. He further assured that the company feels confident that the investments it is making will drive significant subscriber gains. HBO Max is going to be the orkhorse’ of the WarnerMedia’s video division and AT&T, the AT&T CEO confirmed.
Both WarnerMedia and AT&T are planning to convert their subscribers on the digital platforms to HBO Max. For example, they have made it clear that subscribers to HBO Now and HBO Go will be transferred to HBO Max without any additional charges. It’s also aiming to convert its traditional TV subscribers to HBO Max after it suffered a loss of 1.3 million pay-TV subscribers.
HBO Max: AT&T’s warhorse
As the transition is taking place in favor of streaming services and there is a virtual streaming war going on, AT&T has created its warhorse in the form of HBO Max.
Currently, Netflix with over 150 million global subscribers is dominating the scene. However, a number of streaming options are on the horizon as major tech and media companies are lining up their own streaming services for launch.
Can people watch HBO Max through VPN?
If you are out of the US for your studies or some other reason like temporary relocation, will you have to skip your favorite program on HBO Max?
Perhaps not! The Virtual Portable Network (VPN) software that brings minor changes to your IP address may allow you access to your favorite channel on HBO Max. There are numerous VPNs to select from for this purpose.
VPN services let users mask and hide away their IP addresses. This allows you to connect to a site that’s not available outside a geographical boundary. This becomes possible through a server that is located in a geographical location from where the site can be viewed legally.
For example, someone from India wants to access HBO Max which streams only to the US residents. He can buy a VPN subscription from sites such as Nord VPN or Express VPN and connect to one of its servers located in the US. After this, he can access the HBO Max and view its live and library content.
One such VPNs that enjoys tremendous goodwill with users is ExpressVPN. It’s secure, fast and a breeze to work with as it is compatible with all major platforms such as PlayStation, Xbox, Apple TV, iOS and Android.
Express VPN comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee and if you subscribe to it for a year, you get it nearly 50% cheaper, besides 3 months’ extra service.
However, there are apprehensions that VPN services might not be able to hack the security cover of HBO Max.
HBO Max is going to make available all the content shown on the HBO network in the last 45 years. This would include the latest hits from Hollywood, award-winning documentaries, and popular HBO series.
How much will HBO Max cost?
HBO Max is going to cost $15 per month. Subscribers to HBO Now and HBO Go would get it free of cost. Certain categories of subscribers to HBO would also get it free – but not all subscribers.
The industry insiders have been speculating the monthly subscription fees to be $16-18. Some sources said the company might offer the services at $12 with advertisements and $8 without advertisements.
Competing streaming services that have a launch date prior to that of HBO Max are offering more attractive pricing – Apple Plus comes at $5 per month while Disney Plus at $7 per month. Besides, they are also offering deals that can cut the price further or offer free services up to a one-year period.
Friends’ has been the most-viewed series on Netflix but it is no longer available on the streaming platform after HBO Max bought its rights for $425 million.
With a major transition towards streaming services currently taking place, the industry is witnessing a fierce battle for subscribers — with shows, services and networks being renewed, rebranded, canceled, expanded, copied and completely shut down. Each entity is trying to stock up on content and talent that promise quick expansion of the subscriber base. The return of friends’ in a Friends Reunion Special is part of the feverish ongoing acquisition-renewal-cancellation war being waged by the top streaming service providers.
The six cast members of the iconic sitcom series friends’ will hang out once again at the Warner Bros’ sound stage, reminiscing how their show made over 30 million people watch their weekly show about 15 years ago. For the past five years, Netflix has kept streaming old episodes of friends’.
HBO networks are globally-viewed entertainment powerhouse and HBO Max is going to only make this image and reputation even stronger and more formidable. friends’ situational comedy series is an iconic show that kept the US and the global audiences hooked to it through the originals shows and the reruns that were being aired ever since it was closed in 2004. In this light, it’s natural that the global audience would like to have access to HBO Max content and they would be utterly disappointed if they are denied their request. VPN services that are commonly used to access restricted sites can be the only way the fans of HBO and shows like friends’ can satisfy their desire. Reputed VPN brands such as Nord or Express can help the audience outside the US to view their favorite program on HBO Max.
Even as the streaming war is currently being fought for the acquisition of coveted content and talent, the war has just started heating up, with important players such as HBO, Disney, and Apple throwing their hats in the ring in recent months. Subscription rates have fallen to $5 a month or even less while the companies are paying millions of dollars per artist for a successful show. Warner Bros’ acquisition of friends’ series for $425 million and their plan to make a sequel to friends’ exclusively for their upcoming streaming service HHBO Max shows how the stakes have gone up in the streaming business lately.
For the viewers, it’s a great time when they are going to have access to the finest of content that was ever produced and at dirt-cheap prices. They can’t ask for more. But for the companies, billions of dollars are being spent on acquisition, renewal and licensing of the winning content. The successful operation of Netflix is an example of how a global subscriber base is possible for an essentially mobile streaming platform.
However, the global audience will have to take the VPN route to access HBO Max content.