After a day of handwringing about the future of HBO Max, spurred by the removal of some original titles from the streamer’s library, Warner Bros. Discovery executives said that the service remains a central part of its business. “Our strategy is to embrace and support and drive the incredible success that HBO Max is having,” CEO David Zaslav said during a nearly two-hour conference call with investors Thursday.
To do that, Zaslav plans to combine HBO Max with sister streamer Discovery+ to form a new service that will launch next summer, creating a single home for programming as varied as 9src Day Fiancé, Succession, and Justice League. The service, which does not yet have a name, is expected to attract at least 13src million subscribers in the next three years. (HBO Max and Discovery+ currently have 92 million total subscribers.)
Warner Bros. Discovery is also exploring launching a free, ad-supported service that will compliment the new streamer, Zaslav said. The company did not disclose how much it plans to charge for the combined service.
As the company prepares for the eventual merger of HBO Max and Discovery+, executives are taking a hard look at their content spending. In recent weeks, HBO Max quietly removed a handful of original and exclusive titles — including HBO Max films An American Pickle and The Witches and short-lived HBO drama series Here and Now and Vinyl — that will be written off.
On Tuesday, HBO Max also scrapped plans to release a handful of films that would have been exclusive to its platform, including Batwoman origin story Batgirl and animated sequel Scoob!: Holiday Haunt. “Our focus will be on theatrical,” Zaslav said, explaining the unusual decision to shelve the nearly completed Batgirl.
But as HBO Max loses some titles, it’s gaining others. On Thursday ahead of the investor call, the streamer announced that it would add some unscripted shows from Chip and Joanna Gaines’ popular home renovation brand Magnolia Network, while Discovery+ said it would create a hub for CNN programming like Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
Zaslav explained that when it comes to Warner Bros. Discovery’s streaming offering, he wants to focus on quality, not quantity. “It’s not how much, it’s how good,” he said, making sure to point out that HBO and HBO Max content chief Casey Bloys recently signed a new five-year contract that keeps him with the company through the transition to one streaming service.
Though there’s a chance that the new service will not be called HBO Max, the HBO brand “will live on,” streaming CEO JB Perrette confirmed on the call, adding that “HBO and the Max originals remains the unequivocal home of the best streaming television and remains the centerpiece of our combined streaming platform.”