Warner Bros. Discovery unveils new flagship streaming service, ‘Max’
The new streaming platform will combine scripted dramas like HBO’s “Succession,” “White Lotus” and “House of the Dragon” with Discovery’s unscripted staples like cooking, home improvement and survival shows.
The new service will launch on May 23.
“Max is the one to watch, because it’s home to shows that have a supersized effect on people and culture,” Discovery CEO David Zaslav said during a presentation in Burbank, California. “It’s streaming’s version of must-see TV.”
Warner Bros. Discovery executives have been planning to combine HBO Max and Discovery+ for more than a year as part of the rationale for merging Discovery Communications and WarnerMedia, which was divested from AT&T in April 2022.
Pricing will remain the same as current HBO Max plans: $9.99 per month with commercials and $15.99 per month without ads. A new, $19.99 tier labeled “Max Ultimate Ad Free,” will allow for four concurrent streams, up to 4K resolution and 100 offline downloads.
Warner Bros. Discovery’s stock was down more than 6% on Wednesday. The stock is up 48% year to date.
“We have a very significant business with HBO Max. To provide more value to those subs and have a seamless transition will be really helpful for us,” Zaslav said in an interview with CNBC’s Julia Boorstin on “Closing Bell” Wednesday. He added that the company believes putting more content on one streaming service will lower the number of people dropping subscriptions.
The service will add several new series, including a DC Comics series “The Penguin,” a show derived from tent-pole sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” as well as new series from Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network.
The company also announced a new “Game of Thrones” spinoff prequel and a series based off of the “Harry Potter” franchise, with involvement from author J.K. Rowling.
Max should allow Warner Bros. Discovery to better compete with Netflix and Disney’s suite of streaming services (Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+) globally as the streaming wars mature in the coming years. Zaslav has predicted his company’s direct-to-consumer products will break even in 2024 and produce $1 billion in profit in 2025.
“It gives us a huge opportunity as a company,” he said. “Together, these studios allow us to control our own destiny. They give us long-term business optionality. We are this industry’s biggest and most successful maker of content.”
Legacy media companies have pivoted away from traditional pay-TV and built their own subscription streaming products as millions of Americans cancel cable each year.
“It’s not an easy business, and we are in the middle of a transition,” Zaslav said Wednesday on CNBC.
Warner Bros. Discovery had more than 96 million global streaming subscribers, from either HBO Max, HBO or Discovery+, at the end of the fourth quarter. About 55 million of those customers came from the U.S. and Canada. Average monthly revenue per user was $7.58.
“Holding subs is as important as adding subs,” Zaslav said Wednesday.
The CEO added later on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” that he would “rather have 100 million or 150 million subs and be really profitable than try to stretch for a big number and in the end lose money.”
Max will include new tech features including the launch of a default kids profile that comes with parental controls. The company also announced expanded personalization, a new content navigation menu at the top of the app and prominent promotions of featured brands and genres.
Company executives have said on prior investor calls that a focus for the new service would be revamping and improving its technology. On Wednesday, JB Perrette, CEO of streaming and games, noted that three-quarters of HBO Max’s viewership comes from the home screen only, compared with Discovery+, where the majority of usage comes from screens deeper within the app.
On the new service’s launch date, HBO Max will update as the Max app for the majority of users. Some users on certain platforms will be prompted to make the switch when they enter the app, Perrette said.
Discovery+ as an app will remain unaffected, with Perrette noting the company doesn’t “want to leave any of its profitable subscribers behind.”
Disclosure: Comcast, which owns CNBC parent NBCUniversal, is a co-owner of Hulu.
— CNBC’s Julia Boorstin contributed to this report.