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HBO Max Relaunch: The open questions for Warner Bros. Discovery’s Next Pivot


What’s one way to stir up anticipation of a streaming service merger? Keep the new name secret.

While Warner Bros. Discovery prepares to unveil its revamped streaming service on April 12, third-party partners are still awaiting official word on exactly what the merged HBO Max-Discovery streamer will be called, as executives continue to refer to the service by its code name: “Beam.” according to experts. (That code name has been referred for several months, though it’s unclear whether there are several shorthand references to the services, for internal notes or with outside partners.)

The event, which takes place at 10 a.m. PST at the Warner Bros. in Burbank and streamed online will show what the merged company’s major streaming service will look like if it loses the HBO Max name and gets programming from Discovery+.

Even with Beam being used internally, WBD execs are widely expected to announce that the updated streaming service will be called “Max,” which is a nod to the original HBO Max name but loses the HBO branding. A quick search on Max.com also seems to suggest the acquisition of WBD, as the domain was previously registered – until mid-February – with the vitamin and supplement brand Max International. The URL is now registered with Markmonitor, a domain management and security company that works with major companies, including Warner Bros. Discovery. And on CNN a broadcast of four-part docuseries Heaven’s Gate: The cult of cults was touted in a promo as a ‘Max Original’.

In terms of content, Max will differ from its predecessor in that it will not entice viewers to subscribe by offering same-day movies on HBO Max, as was the case with Dune, Wonder Woman 1984 And The Matrix Resurrections during what was dubbed “Project Popcorn” in 2021. The shift from the movie-streaming mindset, championed by former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, comes as Warner Bros. Discovery continues to cut costs under his new leadership; during the fourth quarter of 2022, WBD reported $217 million in streaming losses, down from the more than $600 million recorded during the fiscal third quarter.

“There was a lot of content that just wasn’t viewed,” WBD CEO David Zaslav said on the Feb. 23 company call. “That’s why we came to the conclusion that direct-to-streaming movies really didn’t add value to us.”

Original TV programming continues, with projects in the works including a Harry Potter live-action series and a Sherlock Holmes TV franchise with Robert Downey Jr. as an executive producer, as well as the highly anticipated subsequent seasons of House of the Dragon And The White Lotus.

But for those who are only interested in watching Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network or shows from the 90 Day Fiancé universe, don’t worry: Discovery+ will remain a standalone service even if the programs are added to the Max service, thanks to the low churn and profitability of the lower-cost service. At least on the earnings call, Zaslav said that adding Discovery+ content to Max will help convert some of those existing Discovery+ subscribers into Max subscribers. “Our strategy leaves no submarine behind,” he said. “We have profitable subscribers who are very happy with the Discovery+ product offering, [so] why would we shut that down?”

Leading up to April 12, questions remain about how WBD will price out its subscription tiers, which start at $9.99 for the ad-supported tier and $15.99 for ad-free for the current iteration of HBO Max. While the monthly price of $15.99 is similar to Netflix, HBO Max’s ad-supported tier is currently the highest of all ad-supported plans offered by Netflix, Disney+, Hulu at $9.99 per month. , Paramount+ and Peacock.

WBD recently reported having 96.1 million streaming subscribers, with a relaunch being an important next step toward growth. “The relaunch or launch of a combined product is absolutely critical as we are able to put together all of the content for the first time,” said CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels at a Morgan Stanley investor event in March. “We believe this will have a positive impact on engagement, churn and subscriber acquisition.” The exec also stated on the earnings call earlier this year that the relaunch of the combined service would be supported by an “increase in support for marketing spend and premium content launches.”

Following the preview of the updated streaming service next week, the company will hold its annual shareholder meeting in May.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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