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Media & Entertainment

'Totoro' studio to make US streaming debut with HBO Max

Ghibli moves away from DVDs as sales continue to slide

HBO Max has cited its streaming rights to 21 Studio Ghibli films as a major selling point. (Photo by Hiromi Sato)

PALO ALTO, U.S./TOKYO -- Famed Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli has chosen WarnerMedia's HBO Max service for its first foray into streaming video in the U.S., as American media companies try anime to stand out in an increasingly crowded market.

The service, to start in May 2020, will feature 21 Ghibli films, including director Hayao Miyazaki's "My Neighbor Totoro" and the Academy Award-winning "Spirited Away."

Despite the popularity of Ghibli works in the U.S., they have been available only in theaters and on DVD or Blu-Ray.

HBO Max feels "proud" to be chosen by the studio, Chief Content Officer Kevin Reilly said.

WarnerMedia, a subsidiary of AT&T, said in an investor event Tuesday in California that HBO Max will cost $14.99 a month. This is more than double the price of competing services due out in November from Apple and Walt Disney, and more expensive than Netflix's standard plan, which now costs $12.99.

While Apple and Disney focus on bringing in subscribers quickly, WarnerMedia is assembling a premium content lineup to justify the price tag. with the Ghibli rights as one selling points. It targets 50 million HBO Max subscribers in the U.S. by 2025.

Netflix has signed comprehensive partnerships with five anime studios over the past two years -- including such big names as Production I.G of "Ghost in the Shell" fame -- to develop exclusive content for the service.

Changing media consumption habits pushed Studio Ghibli to make the jump to streaming. "It's become harder to find packaged media like DVDs" in North America, a Ghibli official said.

U.S. sales of home entertainment on physical media, including DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, fell 15% to $5.8 billion last year, according to a report by the Motion Picture Association of America. This figure is down by half from 2013.

Digital sales nearly tripled to $17.5 billion over the same period. U.S.-based Activate Consulting estimates that nearly 200 million Americans use connected TVs.

The global market for subscription streaming services is set to reach nearly $90 billion in 2024, according to one forecast.

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