The HBO Max–Discovery+ Wedding Is Next Summer

Illustration: Martin Gee

It’s been a week for Warner Bros. Discovery, a newly merged company with two major streaming services, decades of chaotic history, and billions in debt. At the combined company’s first quarterly earnings call, CEO David Zaslav and his leadership team teed up the changes coming and reckoned with the “aggressive” (his word!) cost-cutting moves that happened this week, including the cancellation of Batgirl and the curious disappearance of content from HBO Max. The write-downs are apparently significant: The team boasted that the company will have $6 billion in debt paid off — thanks, Hollywood math! — by the end of August. But a significant chunk of the call focused on the rollout of the combined HBO Max and Discovery+ streaming service, coming in summer 2023, as well as initial plans for a potentially free, ad-supported streaming service — a plan finally announced after months of speculation.

Warner Bros. Discovery’s priority is to merge its two streaming products into a “single global brand.” No specific details — a name, a color scheme, a logo, etc. — were announced on the call, nor was there any ballpark on pricing. What the company did share were slides laying out the differences between the services as well as the major franchises and brands found across them both. HBO Max, per one slide, has a “male skew” toward “scripted” content and so-called “lean in” “appointment viewing” as a “home of ‘fandoms,’” while Discovery+ has a “female skew” toward “unscripted” content and a “lean back” sensibility for “comfort viewing” as a “home of ‘genredoms.’” (Looks like genredom is a newly coined term, so congrats to all involved.)

Photo: Warner Bros. Discovery

Risible jargon aside, the company sees the new planned pairing as providing the “best of both” services. “We’re focused on launching our combined SVOD product with ad-free and ad-lite offerings,” said streaming CEO JB Perrette. The road map is also set: Warner Bros. Discovery plans to launch the synergized service in the United States by summer 2023. It also promised a “migration plan” for the new service that “maximizes retention of subscribers” who already have HBO Max and Discovery+. The rollout in international markets will follow: Latin America by fall 2023, Europe in early 2024, the Asia-Pacific countries in mid-2024, and new markets to launch in fall 2024. It also announced a plan for a free, ad-supported tier or separate service to come in the future but shared no other details for that.

Unsurprisingly, leadership reiterated the strength of both the HBO Max and Discovery+ brands several times on the call. “The HBO brand is one of the great crown jewels of the company,” Zaslav said, though there’s no indication (yet) that he’ll call the new service Discover HBO Max+.

The HBO Max–Discovery+ Wedding Is Next Summer