HBO Max, Discovery Plus to merge next summer, executive says

(Graphic by The Desk)

Streaming services HBO Max and Discovery Plus will merge into a single app by next summer, according to the chief executive of its parent company Warner Bros Discovery.

The executive, David Zaslav, confirmed the move during a conference call with investors on Thursday after the company reported its first post-merger quarterly earnings.

The plan calls for scrapping HBO Max and Discovery Plus entirely as both services currently exist. In its place will be a new streaming service — one that combines the libraries of each service — that will offer users a “superb” experience,” Zaslav affirmed.

“HBO Max has a competitive feature set, but it has had performance and customer issues,” Zaslav said on the call. “Discovery Plus has best-in-class performance and consumer ratings, but more limited features.”

Warner Bros Discovery’s plan to combine HBO Max with Discovery Plus has not exactly been a secret: Even before AT&T spun off WarnerMedia into the company that would go on to merge with Discovery, there were reports that executives at the latter had big plans to combine the two streaming services in the future.

Initial plans called for customers of one service to be offered discounted access to the other. Some HBO Max subscribers have been offered discounted access to Discovery Plus for as little as $1 a month, but the bundle has not been widely marketed, nor is it widely available.

Now, it seems like the company’s full attention is on building out a new streaming service from scratch that will finally unify its content offerings under a single brand name. It was not clear what the new streaming service will be called or how much it will cost; executives hope to have it ready by mid-2023, barring any unforeseen obstacles.

“Our primary focus for the rollout will be in the markets where HBO Max has already launched, given its broader international footprint,” Jean-Briac Perrette, the company’s executive in charge of global streaming and interactive services, said on Thursday. “We plan to launch the service sequentially starting in the U.S. next summer.”

Latin American countries where HBO Max is offered will see the unified app come later in the year, while Warner Bros Discovery is hoping to launch the unified app in early 2024.

Warner Bros Discovery is hoping the new service will be profitable by 2024 and have at least 130 million subscribers by the following year. Currently, HBO Max and Discovery Plus have a combined 92.1 million subscribers.

On Thursday, Warner Bros Discovery reported its first quarterly earnings since the merger, with Wall Street investors disappointed by the company’s actual quarterly revenue of $9.82 billion compared to analyst expectations of around $11.91 billion.

In the months since the merger, Warner Bros Discovery has attempted to bring its spending under control by mostly targeting the WarnerMedia side of its portfolio with layoffs and programming cuts. The company shuttered the fledgling streaming news service CNN Plus less than a month after it debuted, cut original series at Turner’s flagship entertainment channels, ended production of European dramas and comedies for HBO Max and significantly reduced the number of HBO Max Originals that will be produced by the service in the coming months.

Earlier this week, Warner Bros Discovery shocked Hollywood when it decided to scrap two movies that were in the final stages of production, including the much-anticipated D.C. Comics superhero movie “Batgirl.”

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