HBO Max as we know it will soon be no more. At its first earnings call since the two media properties merged earlier this year, Warner Bros. Discovery announced it is planning on combining HBO Max and Discovery+ into a single streaming service — set to debut in the summer of 2023. It's unclear whether the new streamer will reference HBO at all — the company’s head of global streaming JB Perrette said the company is still doing research on how consumers perceive the brand name.
The news arrives on the heels of the newly-merged company’s $3.42 billion net loss during the second quarter. “At the end of the day, putting all the content together was the only way we saw to make this a viable business,” Perrette told analysts.
Warner Bros. leadership is planning a significant shakeup of its streaming offerings and also needs to cut $3 billion in costs, which spawned rumors that a gutting of HBO Max is underway. Executives didn’t reveal the name of the new platform or any pricing details, but did disclose that it will include an ad-free and less costly ad-supported plan. It may also add a free, ad-supported tier to further expand its audience.
No mention was made of layoffs at HBO Max at today’s earnings call — which The Wrap reported were imminent as the two streaming platforms are restructured. Engadget has reached out to HBO Max for comment, and will update if we hear back.
It’s unclear exactly how the merger will impact future content offerings at the newly unified streamer. The company abruptly announced this week that it was canceling two movies in development for HBO Max — Batgirl and Scoob!. Around the same time, the streamer announced it was canceling the show The Gordita Chronicles and putting an end to live-action kids and family programming altogether. A number of shows and movies have disappeared from HBO Max in recent weeks, including Moonshot, The Witches and An American Pickle, and more are reportedly to follow.
One thing is certain: We’ll see far fewer blockbuster films premiere on the new streamer, as was customary during the pandemic. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said releasing films in movie theaters simply generated higher profits. “That’s why most people got in this business — to be on the big screen when the lights went out,” Mr. Zaslav said. “That is the magic, and the economic model is much stronger.”