HBO Max reboot: price, date, name, programming
Warner Bros. Discovery pulls HBO from HBO Max.
After months of anticipation, the company has finally revealed that a merger of sorts between HBO Max and Discovery+ will begin on May 23rd, and that the relaunched service will simply be called “Max.”
Warner Bros. Discovery also announced that Max will start at $15.99 per month (or $149.99 per year) in addition to the ad-free pricing tier, with the cheaper $9.99 per month (or $99.99/year) , for an ad-supported subscription. There’s also an ad-free “Ultimate” plan for $19.99 a month (or $199.99 a year), which allows for four simultaneous streams, 4K resolution, 100 offline downloads, and Dolby Atmos sound.
Except for the new, most expensive tier, these are exactly the previous costs of the respective HBO Max tiers (after the January price increase). All of this comes exactly three years after the first launch of HBO Max, in the midst of the epidemic, in May 2020.
The new Max streamer will include movies and TV shows from HBO Max, as well as a good chunk (but not all) of the shows that were previously exclusive to Discovery+.
“From the greatest superheroes to real-life champions; from culture-shaping dramas to taste-shaping entertainment; from fantastical realms to real worlds, Max will offer an unparalleled variety,” said JB Perrette, president and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery streaming at the Max launch event on Wednesday. “This new brand marks an important shift from two narrower products, HBO Max and Discovery+, to our broader content offering and consumer proposition. While some products have something for everyone, Max offers a wide range of quality choices for everyone.”
WBD also announced several new TV shows during the event. After it was reported earlier this month that Warner Bros. Discovery was planning a TV adaptation of JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books, the series has been officially ordered by Max. The series has been described as a “faithful adaptation” of the original novels, featuring a new cast based on each of the seven books.
The news comes after the “Harry Potter” franchise, the best-selling book series of all time, became a lightning rod thanks to Rowling’s outspoken transphobia. Rowling’s controversial statements lead to a boycott of this spring’s video game spinoff “Hogwarts Legacy,” though the game ended up selling extremely well. The movie franchise is one of Warner Bros.’ most valuable properties, bringing in $7.7 billion worldwide, though spinoff series “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” has been plagued by underperformance from last year’s “The Crimes of Grindelwald.” Rowling remains involved in the series as an executive producer alongside Neil Blair and Ruth Kenley-Letts.
Ever since the Warner Bros. Discovery merger was approved, there has been speculation that the two streamers would merge, but HBO Max and Discovery+ are strange bedfellows. Discovery+ focuses on cheap (and often not particularly premium) content, such as “Dr. Pimple Popper: This Is Zit”; HBO Max’s reach is broad — offering adult and children’s cartoons, reality shows, and a library of classic movies courtesy of the Criterion Collection and Turner Classic Movies — but it’s best known for hosting premium cable channel HBO’s scripted “prestige” shows. named after him.
In the initial announcement of the merger, Zaslav and WBD executives tried to emphasize how a combined platform would make sense and combine the strengths of the two products, leading to misconceptions such as a PowerPoint slide which claimed HBO Max had a “male bias” and Discovery+ had a “female bias”.
But while the new Max service will integrate programming from both platforms, WBD recently changed its stance on eliminating Discovery+ and will keep it as a standalone product. That’s because, while Discovery+ is much smaller than HBO Max, it’s also much cheaper, and The Wall Street Journal was reported in February that it became profitable. WBD’s direct-to-consumer business posted a $217 million loss in the fourth quarter of 2022 due to losses on HBO Max and HBO linear.
What’s more, the two streamers have relatively little overlap in terms of customer base: As of Q4 2022, WBD has 96.1 million direct-to-consumer subscribers, including HBO Max, Discovery+ and linear HBO. The company doesn’t report totals for each service, but Discovery+ has about 20 million subscribers, and HBO Max and linear HBO have about 76 million subscribers combined. According to Wells Fargo stock analysts in February, 4 million American consumers have subscriptions to Discovery+ and HBO Max.
HBO Max’s relaunch as “Max” is the culmination of months of cost-cutting at the popular and well-received streamer, aimed at boosting profitability and reducing about $3 billion in debt. The cost-cutting measures have affected several areas of the company — including layoffs at several divisions such as CNN and Warner Bros. Television, as well as restructuring at TBS and TNT — but HBO Max has had the most far-reaching impacts, including a streaming exclusive “Batgirl” movie.
WBD has since pulled about 80 shows, movies or specials from the streamer and canceled several unreleased projects, such as “Minx” Season 2. These cuts reportedly helped WBD take advantage of tax write-offs in its first year of operation.
See below for an overview of the other projects announced at the press conference:
In addition to various scripted streaming programs, WBD also introduced and announced several reality programs during the event. In conjunction with Warner Bros.’s “Barbie,” set for release this July, HGTV has commissioned the “Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge,” a competition series focused on eight teams as they renovate Southern California homes into real-life “Barbie”-inspired dollhouses. line of play. Hosted by Ashley Graham, the show premieres this summer on HGTV and airs on Max.
TLC has ordered “Love and Translation,” a reality dating series in which three American men live with twelve women, none of whom speak English, and explore relationships. The show premieres this winter and is part of Sharp Entertainment, Sony Pictures Television for TLC.
Magnolia has ordered “Fixer Upper – The Hotel,” a new installment in the “Fixer Upper” franchise starring home renovators and married couple Chip and Joanna Gaines. The show will focus on the Gaines as they renovate a Waco building to open a new establishment, Hotel 1928. The series will premiere this fall, timed to coincide with the October opening of the 1928 Hotel; the series will consist of six episodes and is produced by Gaines’ Blind Nil banner.
Discovery has given the green light to “Survive the Raft,” a nine-episode reality show about nine contestants who battle physical and mental challenges for 21 days at sea. The “Survivor” themed program will premiere on the Discovery Channel in July and air on Max; Critical Content produces the series.
Max also got into the reality series game by commissioning the six-part documentary “SmartLess: on the Road” starring Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Sean Hayes. Sam Jones directs the series, which premieres on May 23; trailer was shown exclusively during the presentation. Arnett, Bateman, Hayes and Jones executive produced with Ross M. Dinerstein. Ross Girard is co-executive producer and Mark McCune is executive producer. The series comes to Max from Campfire Studios.
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