Warner Bros. Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels has spoken about Max, the studio’s revamped streaming service that combines programming from both the original HBO Max streaming service and Discovery+ following its launch on Tuesday.
“It’s day one, but so far so good,” WBD’s chief financial officer told the JP Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference during a webcast session. Max costs $15.99 per month ($149.99/year) for the ad-free version and $9.99 per month ($99.99/year) for the ad-supported tier.
Wiedenfels pointed to early indications of faster downloads and better content discovery for Max, as WBD looks to subscribers to get a better handle on the massive amount of content available on the recently expanded streaming platform, as opposed to a focus on a smaller range of popular hits.
“We’re really in the first innings of launching the product and the basic premise here is that we can get better engagement and a more satisfying consumer experience with this combined portfolio,” Wiedenfels said.
The WBD boss didn’t show his cards when it came to putting sports and other traditional content from linear TV networks on Max, as the industry struggles to balance its declining cable networks and emerging streaming services amid increasing cable cuts. But Wiendenfels did say Max would respond to the industry’s continued pivot to streaming, which in turn undercuts the traditional pay-TV bundle.
“I don’t think we should be at the forefront of disruptions here, but we’re clearly monitoring what’s going on,” Wiedenfels said. The Max launch comes a year after WarnerMedia and Discovery completed the $43 billion merger, with the combined company led by CEO David Zaslav.
Part of Zaslav’s pitch to Hollywood was the creation of a streaming service that could compete with Netflix and Disney+ by combining the best of HBO’s high-brow scripted fare with Discovery’s more low-brow but profitable lifestyle and reality programming.
By removing HBO from Max’s branding, WBD has attempted to appeal to a wider audience that has previously turned away from the streaming service due to HBO’s high reputation and higher price. Wiedenfels also spoke of moves to bundle more streaming services together, without venturing much into how that packaging might work.
“Consumers would benefit from some form of rebundling… but I don’t think it’s easy to get this done. And I certainly don’t expect anything to happen here any time soon,” he told the investor conference.
On the movie side, WBD has looked to more theatrical releases for movie tentpoles, even as the movie product finally makes its way to streaming platforms led by Warner Bros. Motion Pictures Group Presidents Michael DeLuca and Pamela Abdy.
“There is now a very clear mission. We are 100 percent committed to the theatrical model. What is different is that the theatrical window is no longer a fixed mold. Each title has a different number of days in theaters. That’s the flexibility we didn’t have years ago,’ says Wiedenfels.