If you like HBO Max like us, you’ve probably been stressed enough. This week has seen a nightmarish situation emerge for the Merging HBO Max and Discovery Plus. But in the Warner Bros. Discovery Q2 Earnings Call today (Thursday August 4th), we were right about a measured optimism.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated following the earnings call.
Yes, in case you haven’t heard, Discovery’s WarnerMedia acquisition of AT&T, which led to the mouthful of a new Warner Bros. name. Discovery, meant we were going to get a service that combines the two. Or so we thought.
HBO Max earned a top spot in Warner Bros. earnings call. Discovery Q2
After WBD CEO and Chairman David Zaslav spoke of “combining the rich legacies” of Warner Bros. and Discovery into one company, he reiterated his intention to “bring together HBO Max and Discovery Plus” into one offering. But the biggest moments came from JB Perrette, CEO and President of Global Streaming and Games.
While Zaslav Perrette both explained that we’ll have to wait for the Investors Day event scheduled for the end of the year, Perrette and his slides pushed HBO Max much harder than you might think given concerns about the reduction in HBO Max to just HBO.
A slide for a global product showed large HBO Max and Discovery Plus logos, with bullet points below declaring that they would live under a “single global brand”. Interestingly, the service will have both “on-demand and live” capabilities, as well as “ad-free, Ad-lite, and ad-only options.” There will be multiple levels, which will apparently add sports.
Later, an executive said he would “double down” on HBO, another reason to think HBO Max has a bright future.
Then another slide showed WBD’s timeline for both services, explaining that the United States would get the service first, in the summer of 2023. It will debut in Latin America this fall, in Europe in early 2024 and in Asia-Pacific markets in mid-2024.
All of the prominent HBO Max brand placements in this presentation suggest that the HBO Max brand and service will survive in this new service, even though it is under the Discovery Plus brand.
Explaining HBO Max’s Concerns
So why were we worried about HBO Max (which we believe is still the best streaming service)? Amid much chaos on Tuesday (August 2), with HBO Max’s Batgirl movie canceled after Warner invested $90 million in it and the news that six original HBO Max movies disappeared from the serviceother shoes started falling off.
Tony Maglio at IndieWire (opens in a new tab) then reported that there were more cuts to come, and all because of the drive to cut costs when HBO Max merged and Discovery More. The question is of course How? ‘Or’ What will they merge these two services?
Then, on Wednesday afternoon, The envelope (opens in a new tab) released a shocking new report stating that “HBO Max development is expected to be particularly hard hit by layoffs, with two sources putting the number of development staff cuts at 70%.” An insider told The Wrap that “HBO employees are ‘all freaking out’ and ‘all I know is they’re turning HBO Max into HBO, and there will be layoffs'” .
Some of that could still happen, but we have less confidence in this report than ever.
Before that, all we heard was a rumor from Beyond The Trailer YouTuber Grace Randolph. Randolph is credited as initiated by some (opens in a new tab)while james gunn (opens in a new tab) doesn’t seem to trust him, to put it politely. And his rumor now seems truer than ever.
The nightmare scenario for HBO Max fans
Ahead of second-quarter results from Warner Bros. Discovery Thursday August 4, Randolph tweeted (opens in a new tab) a list of ideas that were “RUMOR regarding the #WBD presentation.” None of these ideas were presented.
Randolph claimed that HBO Max would be part of Discovery Plus, “likely as an #HBO tab” and that the new service would “get rid of scripted #HBOMax, with overall streaming focusing on the unscripted.”
This would essentially force loyal HBO Max subscribers to buy a new (likely more expensive) streaming service to continue having access to the shows and movies they love, while possibly getting less of that content they love. .
It also doesn’t say where the HBO Max licensed content — Friends seasons, Studio Ghibli movies and more — would end. Inside that new “HBO” tab? Considering HBO Max’s branding is strong at WBD, it seems like that would be the nickname for such a tab.
HBO Max becomes a section in a new app?
What would happen next? The Wrap quotes a Hollywood agent familiar with the plans as saying “HBO is very safe. If it was ‘Game of Thrones,’ Casey Bloys won.”
Yes, HBO Max just reinvested in the man behind its content: Casey Bloys, Chief Content Officer of HBO and HBO Max. A Variety (opens in a new tab) a July 2022 report indicates that Bloys has signed a new five-year contract with Warner Bros. Discovery. But just think like a cost-cutting executive and watch his shared headlines. Why make him run both HBO and HBO Max content, when he could only run one?
So it looks like Bloys is coming back to lead a single team on a likely smaller budget. WBD has swung the ax of cancellation on many scripted shows, including TNT snowdropsTBS’ The last OG and HBO Max made for love.
Some HBO Max shows may remain under the HBO brand, as Bloys has publicly stated The air hostess season 3 is certainly possible. We hope that Peacemaker, Harley Quinn, Our Flag Means Death and Hacks will be among the shows that survive.
After the presentation, we’re more likely to believe the HBO Max brand is still valuable.
Outlook: what happens next?
The big question with which the executives of Warner Bros. Discovery are probably playing is “which streaming service is most important?” Now that Warner Bros. Discovery made its second quarter presentation, we have the impression that it places great importance on the two streaming services.
Comparing HBO Max and Discovery Plus is certainly like comparing apples and pineapples. The former is mostly scripted programming, and the latter is mostly unscripted content.
Ultimately, it’s now Discovery’s company. And it’s hard to imagine them wanting to make their service a tab in someone else’s app. That said, we’d much rather see a Discovery Plus hub in HBO Max than an HBO tab in the Discovery Plus app. HBO Max seems like a brand that could bring Discovery inside, right?
As we knew, a single, new streaming service will contain both Discovery Plus and HBO Max. Which side “wins” will be up for debate, but for now, it looks like HBO Max is a brand with a future. But that’s just optics. What matters more is how much this new service costs (a price hike seems inevitable).
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