Warner Bros. Discovery shakes up streaming plans — again

WBD executives realized that many Discovery+ subscribers didn’t want to triple their monthly bill for HBO shows.

Warner Bros. Discovery probably should have paid attention to its own viral slideshowwhich showed a general lack of crossover between HBO Max and Discovery+ subscribers.

The company headed by David Zaslav plans to combine the expensive Max and the cheap Discovery+ into a new, unique platform this spring. That’s still happening, though Discovery+ will continue as a standalone service, a person familiar with the plans confirmed to IndieWire. Also, not all Discovery programs go with the Max/Discovery+ hybrid service; some will remain exclusive to Discovery+.

Discovery’s Shark Week stunt program and Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network shows will be available on both Discovery+ and the upcoming hybrid service. THE Wall Street Journal first broke the news.

It’s a last-minute change, but it makes sense when you consider the price and the difference in (self-professed) fan base between the brands. Why would anyone suddenly pay $4.99 (with ads) or $6.99 (without ads) a month for Discovery+ when HBO is $9.99 (with ads) or $15.99 (without ads) a month — or realistically, more a few bucks more when the two platforms merge — add the HBO programming they never wanted? Or at least they didn’t want to HBO price.

Discovery+ has about 20 million subscribers and is already profitable. Equity analysts at Wells Fargo estimate that the overlap between Max and Discovery+ is about 4 million subscribers in the U.S.

Warner Bros. Discovery also plans to launch its own FAST (free, ad-supported streaming television) in the future. The company has already licensed a bunch of its programming, including “Westworld,” to launch branded FAST channels on Tubi and The Roku Channel.

To get there and meet its lofty cost-cutting goals, the company has been deleting, revamping, and outright scrubbing HBO and HBO Max programming and library content left and right. While the list is too long to enumerate, the biggest example is “Batgirl,” an $80 million finished movie that never saw the light of day. Warner Bros. Discovery instead used the HBO Max movie as the tax description.

Zaslav and his trusted CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels will announce WBD’s 2022 fourth quarter and full year results on February 23.

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