Carolyn Borkowski

HBO Max
Podcast Player

@ Warner Bros. Discovery

Putting the “party” in “what if users didn’t have to use a third-party service?”

Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop

Sketch

Sketch

The early days of HBO Max

In 2020, I was hired as a digital design intern at Warner Bros. Discovery (the company formerly known as WarnerMedia, the company formerly known as Time Warner…) as a part of the marketing department for their cable TV networks under the Turner umbrella: TBS, TNT, and TruTV. HBO Max has JUST launched only weeks prior to my start, and if you recall, it was a little bumpy at the time. It’s very clearly thrived since then, but initially, communicating what was on the streaming service was a little tough.

It was also quite some time before HBO Max had plentiful creative hands on marketing materials, and so, the Turner team sprung into action. 

HBO Max was ready to bring new original content to the forefront, and podcasts were a part of that. From launch, the streaming service encouraged higher level of engagement with the content by providing these avenues for extra content.

The opportunity

HBO Max subscribers interested in listening to a podcast for bonus content related to an HBO Max original they watched are among the most engaged and invested users. An audience who cares about a product exclusive to the service can be relied on to continue paying for their subscription to maintain access to the content they care about. But to participate in the HBO Max product at that level, they have to leave HBO Max and go to a different media distributor. 

However, these passionate subscribers don’t come from thin air. Some HBO fans have been around a while, of course, but as a premium cable service in the age of streaming services and people “cutting the cord”, stirring up interest in prospective subscribers is just as important. While podcasts are typically free already, making the ability to listen and explore the content easily accessible to prospective subscribers promotes the product and the experience of subscribing further. By taking a listen, or even just browsing available podcast episodes, we can better communicate that the HBO Max experience is more than just a streaming service.

So I designed concepts for native integration of the podcasts in the HBO Max website and mobile app (and supplementary onsite promotion of the product) to make being an invested, long-time subscriber as frictionless as possible. I used Adobe Photoshop to prepare assets for the designs, and created the UI in Sketch. This was one of the first projects I ever did in Sketch, but I had previous experience using Adobe XD for UI design, and Sketch felt to me like a super souped-up XD. I was able to explore so much, given really only the guidelines to develop new marketing materials and onsite concepts for promotion of the podcasts. 

Design concepts

HBOMax.com homepage

Page section promoting Max originals podcasts on mobile and desktop, placed on hbomax.com landing page shown to users not logged in

HBOMax.com show page

Podcast player embedded in promotional series landing page on hbomax.com (shown to users not logged in) – podcast playable without logging in to engage with non-subscribed visitors and provide opportunity to develop interest in exclusive content.

HBOMax in-app player

Over 70% of regular podcast consumers listen via smartphone, streamed through apps such as Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Integration of podcast audio player functionality within the HBO Max app creates a smoother avenue for subscribers to engage further with the content. The podcast is available right alongside the series they just watched, ready to create deeper connection between users and exclusive offerings.