We’re finally starting to get a little clarity about what the future looks like for HBO Max and Discovery, which now fall under the same roof, causing a bit of a shockwave in the entertainment industry not just from the platform side, but more recently by taking a pretty heavy hatchet to shows and movies.
During Thursday’s second-quarter earnings call, executives of the new Warner Bros. Discovery said to expect the launch of a new service that combines HBO Max and Discovery+ in the summer of 2023. The United States is up first, with 39 counties in Latin America to follow later in the year. Europe will launch in 2024 — though that doesn’t currently include the U.K. and Germany, followed by Asia-Pacific and new markets later in that year. It’s possible that some markets may see an accelerated rollout, however.
More details are to come at an investor event later this year.
“There’s lots to do, and we’re determined to get it right,” said JB Perrette, CEO and President, Global Streaming and Games. “We recognize that both of our existing products have shortcomings. HBO Max has a competitive feature set, but has had performance and customer issues. Discovery Plus has best-in-class performance and consumer ratings, but more limited features. Our combined service will focus on delivering the best of both.”
In all, the combined service expects to have 130 million subscribers by 2025, up around 40 million from what the two services currently have. (They announced 92.1 million subscribers in the earnings report.)
There also will be a free, ad-supported version available at some point down the line, executives said, joining the current ad-free and ad-lite options. The content on that “FAST” option, for free, ad-supported streaming television, will be different than what’s on the flagship service, execs said.
Additionally, deals with AT&T have been extended. While details weren’t disclosed, it sounds like that’ll keep the HBO service included as part of AT&T’s internet and wireless subscriptions. The now-defunct Warner Media was owned by AT&T before the deal was reached to join with Discovery.
On the entertainment side, the recent decisions that have ended some current shows and killed others before they premiered — Batgirl, for example — were acknowledged, though that will do little to assuage fans who just lost their favorite show or were looking forward to a movie. (And, of course, there’s the death of CNN+, which was killed within a week of the Warner Bros. Discovery deal going through.)
“Our ambition is to bring Warner back and produce high-quality films,” CEO David Zaslav said. “We have done a reset. We’ve restructured the business. There’s going to be a team with a 10-year plan focusing just on DC … And as part of that, we’re going to focus on quality. We’re not going to release any film before it’s ready.”
Also look for a return to the traditional release schedules, with a renewed emphasis on theaters and streaming taking a back seat as a way to provide multiple waves for a given piece of content.
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