Warner Bros. Discovery Unveils Revamped ‘Max’ Streaming Service, Launching May 23
Warner Bros. Discovery announced Wednesday that it will launch its long-awaited new streaming service, dubbed “Max,” on May 23, combining the scripted entertainment of HBO Max with the reality shows of Discovery.
The service will seek to expand its reach beyond fans of HBO’s acclaimed and cutting-edge shows by incorporating unscripted fare and children’s programming.
It will also tap into the studio’s rich content library to produce top-tier programming, including a new series based on author JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books, and another prequel to popular fantasy series Game of Thrones.
Warner Bros., Walt Disney and other media companies are looking to strike the right balance between spending on new shows to attract and retain subscribers and make a profit.
Shares of Warner Bros. Discovery closed nearly 6%, part of a broader decline in streaming shares after critical remarks from renowned investor Warren Buffett.
“It’s not really a very good deal,” Buffett told CNBC television. While people who work in entertainment “make a lot of money, shareholders really haven’t done as well over time.”
Buffett is an investor in Paramount Global, which fell 3% on Wednesday. Disney fell 2.5% and Netflix 2%.
The new “Max” service will serve as a test of CEO David Zaslav’s ambition to create one of the world’s leading streaming services by assembling a collection of disparate assets, from the cooking show Barefoot Contessa to Batman.
“This is our moment, this is our chance,” Zaslav said during a presentation at the Warner studio lot in Burbank, Calif. “I feel like for our business, this is our date with fate.”
Prices for Max would range from $9.99 (around Rs.820) per month for the ad-supported version to $19.99 (around Rs.1,640) per month for “Max Ultimate” for the ad-free tier with four streams simultaneous. One tier would retain HBO Max’s current price of $15.99 (around Rs 1,310) per month – a strategy that won praise from a media analyst.
“By keeping the prices the same, except for the new premium tier, there’s no reason for anyone to back out,” said Jessica Reif Ehrlich, media analyst at Bank of America. “For the same price, you get multiples of content.”
Zaslav said HBO’s “one-of-a-kind storytelling” will bring subscribers to the service while Discovery’s unscripted programming will keep them.
Warner Bros. Discovery has dropped “HBO” from the streaming service’s name, which to some viewers sounds like a bespoke series but puts others off.
Global streaming chief JB Perrette said, “HBO is HBO” and it “shouldn’t be pushed to breaking point” by supporting a wide variety of content from HBO and Discovery.
“We’re looking to go the extra mile,” Perrette said, “and we believe we can compete with the biggest players in the space.”
The service will feature HBO content, including several Succession Emmy-winning drama series and the hit video game adaptation The Last of Us.
It will also contain several new titles based on popular franchises, including The Penguin, a series based on the DC Comics villain, a new comedy series spin-off from the hit CBS show The Big Bang Theory, and a new installment of the Fixer Upper home improvement. franchise, Fixer Upper: The Hotel.
CEO Zaslav said Warner Bros. films would enjoy traditional theatrical release and reap box office receipts before becoming available on the streaming service.
The opportunity to better capitalize on the streaming video revolution was one of the rationales for the merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia in 2022.
But by the time the deal was struck in April last year, Wall Street’s enthusiasm for streaming had begun to wane as Netflix reported its first loss of subscribers in more than a decade. Investors began prioritizing profits over subscriber gains, ushering in a new frugality in Hollywood.
Like other media companies, Warner Bros. Discovery has yet to make a profit on its HBO Max and Discovery+ streaming services, although the company has pared losses.
It has set a target of 130 million subscribers by 2025, well below Netflix’s 231 million subscribers.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
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