As Max's subscriber woes continue, Barbie's official streaming debut can't come soon enough

Barbie and Ken look at something off-camera in their cowboy costumes in the Barbie movie
Max could really use some movie-based magic from Barbie right now. (Image credit: Dale Robinette/Warner Bros. Pictures)

Max, the super-streamer replacement for HBO Max, shed almost one million users in the period running July to October 2023.

In its Q3 2023 earnings report, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) confirmed that its primary streaming service has lost 700,000 customers over the last three months. Those losses mean Max's current userbase sits at just 95.1 million, which is a far cry from major rival Netflix's near-250 million-strong  subscriber base.

Understandably, Max's fanbase is expected to be far smaller than Netflix's. WBD's main streamer is only available in the US right now, although it is set to expand into Latin America in early 2024, Europe in mid-2024, and the Asia-Pacific territory in late 2024. Even so, coupled with the two million users Max lost as a result of its confusing launch in May 2023, things don't look good for WBD's ambitions to rein in Netflix and other big rivals, such as Disney Plus, in the subscriber stakes.

The Roy family walk down a corridor together in Succession season 3

The end of Succession seems to have hit Max's subscriber base hard (Image credit: HBO)

WBD didn't offer any possible reasons for Max's falling userbase in its Q3 2023 earnings report, and it's unlikely we'll get one during today's (November 8) earnings call. 

However, it is possible to speculate on why the streaming platform is failing to resonate with US viewers. For starters, the price of Max makes it one of the most expensive streamers around, with Max's Ad-Lite plan will setting consumers back $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year. Considering that the likes of Netflix and Disney Plus' ad-supported tiers cost less – they're $6.99 and $7.99 a month respectively – it's little wonder customers are opting for streamers at cheaper price points, especially given the ongoing cost of living squeeze.

Then there's the dearth of great TV shows that have debuted on Max recently. Since Q2 2023 (the period running March to June), the best Max has been able to offer audiences is season 2 of hit series Our Flag Means Death, the debut of mystery-thriller show Full Circle, and a couple of animated programs in the form of Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake and Scavengers Reign. Sure, some of those are good TV options that made it onto our best Max shows list, but they aren't barnstorming successes along the lines of megahit Succession, which ended earlier this year.

Things aren't any better on the movie front, either. Okay, Warner Bros. Pictures-developed films including The Meg 2: The Trench and The Nun II have joined the service since September but, again, they're not world-beaters that deserve a spot on our best Max movies guide.

Taika Waititi's Blackbeard stands between two other sailors in HBO Max show Our Flag Means Death

The second season of Our Flag Means Death didn't help Max increase the size of its userbase (Image credit: Warner Media/HBO Max)

But there is one movie that could turn Max's ailing fortunes around: Barbie. One of 2023's best new movies, Barbie – boosted by the cultural phenomenon event known as 'Barbenheimer' – became a box office sensation following its release in July. As WBD notes in its latest earnings report, Barbie has become the highest-grossing Warner Bros. Pictures flick ever, earning almost $1.5 billion worldwide.

The hype might have died down somewhat by the time it comes to Max, but there's no denying that Barbie's eventual debut on the streamer could lead to an uptick in subscribers. Max will be the exclusive home to Barbie in the US, so anyone interested in seeing what all the fuss is about (or those watching it for the umpteenth time) will need to subscribe to Max to stream it.

So, when will Barbie be available to watch on Max? In early August, WBD CEO David Zaslav suggested it'll arrive "in the fall", meaning we might see the Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling-starring smash hit become one of the new Max movies in the coming weeks. After all, fall will make way for winter (north of the equator, anyway) in December, so we're not too far away from fall 2023 drawing to a close.

With other Warner-developed films, including Wonka and Aquaman 2, set to arrive in theaters next month, Barbie's stint in cinemas will officially be over. And, with the nights getting longer and the weather getting colder, now is as good a time as any for Barbie to join Max's back catalog. Heaven knows WBD's super-streamer could do with the subscriber push.

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Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across.

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