Following the recent merger of Warner Bros. Discovery, the company confirmed plans to re-launch its two streaming platforms, HBO Max and Discovery+, as a single service, projected to roll out in the U.S. beginning Summer 2023. Warner Discovery CEO David Zaslav announced the news during the company’s Q2 earnings call on Thursday (August 4th).
By combining HBO Max, “the most acclaimed streaming service among consumers,” and Discovery+’s library of “real-life entertainment,” Warner Bros. Discovery says the new streaming service will achieve the “best of both” — acknowledging customer complaints aimed at HBO Max’s user interface and Discovery+’s catalog. Ultimately, the company said their “leading objective is growing engagement.”
Once both apps are integrated, the company said, they’ll begin offering “ad-lite” and “ad-free” tiers. The platform will also become the new hub for CNN Originals, as CNN’s attempted pivot to streaming, CNN+, was canceled in April just three weeks after its launch.
More details, including the name of the new streaming platform, will be revealed closer to its launch.
The merger of Warner Bros. Discovery, which put Zaslav (who previously headed up the Discovery group of networks) in charge of the full operation of both combined brands, has led to some abrupt pivots from past decisions made by WarnerMedia executives in the name of economic streamlining. This includes cutting costs by canceling a slew of content, including TBS’s Full Frontal With Samantha Bee (canceled as a result of “business-based decisions”) and Adult Swim’s Joe Pera Talks With You, which got the boot (and broke our hearts) last month after three seasons.
In Thursday’s earnings call, the executive team emphasized a diversified approach to revenue streams for the company’s content offerings — rather than just relying on profits from streaming service subscribers to boost WBD’s profits, the goal is to let ad support, theatrical releases, Pay TV, and licensing all contribute to the bottom line.
The team also acknowledged surprising decisions like the report that Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah’s nearly-completed Batgirl film had been scrapped despite its $90 million price tag. Speaking on that news, Zaslav said that having looked at the numbers for past direct-to-HBO Max releases, it was no longer a priority for the company. “This idea of expensive films going direct to streaming — we can’t find an economic case for it, we can’t find an economic value to it, so we’re making a strategic shift,” he said.
In addition, he said, “We’re not going to launch a movie until it’s ready. We’re not going to launch a movie to make a quarter and we’re not going to put a movie out unless we believe in it.”
Additional “course correction measures” that have been announced by the WBD team include implementing a new distribution strategy for HBO Max that aims at wider availability, and a “more balanced approach to extend content licensing while protecting certain key properties.” The presentation celebrated both HBO-grown franchises like Game of Thrones/House of the Dragon as well as Discovery’s own 90 Day Fiance — which you’ll be able to watch next year, on the same app.