HBO Max is doing great according to HBO Max

According to the latest subscriber numbers from AT&T, it looks like HBO and its sister service HBO Max are doing pretty well — great, in fact! In a regulatory filing this week, AT&T revealed it surpassed its projected year-end target with 73.8 million total subscribers between HBO and HBO Max (even after its split with Amazon). Not bad, right?

But that win comes after a year of highly anticipated movie debuts intended to soar subscriber numbers, and it’s still tens of millions of subscribers behind rivals like Disney Plus and Netflix. The numbers also come with some pretty big caveats. In other words, hold the applause.

First, AT&T’s numbers (previously reported by Variety) merge two separate services — HBO, its cable company, and HBO Max, its streaming service — and they don’t differentiate how many subscribers each service has individually. WarnerMedia spokesperson Jaclyn Mandelbaum told: The edge that more information “will appear in AT&T’s earnings in a few weeks,” but declined to specify numbers for each service.

AT&T’s growth also looks less impressive given the high-profile content it’s delivered over the past year, including titles like Dune, The Matrix Resurrections, and the third season of succession. Additionally, HBO Max added a lower-priced tier and launched internationally mid-year – both should have helped increase subscribers significantly.

Disney Plus has added more than twice as many subscribers in a comparable period. Disney’s streaming service, which launched about six months before HBO Max, reported 118.1 million paying subscribers in October 2021, up from 73.7 million about a year earlier. In contrast, HBO’s record 73.8 million has only risen from 61 million subscribers worldwide at the end of 2020.

Streaming data is virtually impossible to tackle on a one-to-one comparison level for a myriad of reasons, not least because everyone plays by different rules. That’s not to say how piracy, account sharing, and features like autoplay can significantly skew a truly accurate picture of subscriber and title success.

Last year should have been HBO Max’s year to win. It will have to find new ways to grow without the help of a long-awaited day-and-date slate.