Warner Bros. Discovery has unveiled “Max,” its high-stakes super-streamer that unites some of the company’s most storied brands under one roof and aims to aggressively compete in the streaming marketplace as the traditional linear television business rapidly declines.
The new service, announced by CEO David Zaslav at a press event Wednesday, will launch May 23 in the US and give consumers access to a large library of programming across Warner Bros. Discovery’s sprawling portfolio: Warner Bros., HBO, HGTV, Food Network, Cartoon Network, TLC and others.
“It’s the one to watch,” Zaslav said, referencing the service’s tagline, “because we have so many of the world’s iconic and globally recognized franchises. It’s our superpower.”
The streaming platform is a service “every member of the household” can go to for entertainment, he added.
Max subscribers can choose from three price tiers. The least expensive is US$9.99 a month and will show ads. The ad-free version will cost US$15.99, the price of the company’s existing HBO Max service. That tier will let customers stream on two devices at once and download up to 30 titles, but the content will be available only in high-definition rather than 4K.
Users who want the higher-resolution 4K streams will have to buy the Max “ultimate plan” for US$19.99 a month, which includes up to four concurrent streams, 100 downloads and Dolby Atmos sound.
Existing HBO Max customers will be transitioned to the new service without any action on their part. Those users, said, a spokesperson for Warner Bros. Discovery told CNN, can keep existing features like 4K HDR resolution for a limited period before being prompted to move into the “ultimate plan.”
The Max platform was borne of the mega-merger announced between WarnerMedia and Discovery in 2021 and completed last year. Warner Bros. Discovery is also the parent company of CNN and Newshub.
‘Attack plan’ for news and sports
Company executives have touted the combined streaming service as unique in its content mix: It packages award-winning prestige programming like HBO’s Succession and House of the Dragon with unscripted shows like HGTV’s Fixer Upper and TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé.
Zaslav also hinted that news and sports programming will factor into the service in the future, given that Warner Bros. Discovery owns properties such as Turner Sports and CNN.
“We are a global leader in sports and we are a global leader in news,” Zaslav said.
“And in a few months we will come back to you on our attack plan to use this important and differentiating content to grow our streaming business even further.”
The Max service represents the future for Warner Bros. Discovery, which has been entrenched in a traditional TV business that is declining as audiences switch to streaming.
Other companies enmeshed in the cable business have also moved in recent years to launch streaming platforms, including Disney, NBC, and Paramount. But none of these companies have achieved the success of Netflix, which pioneered the streaming business and has more than 230 million global subscribers.
Warner Bros. Discovery hopes that it will amass 130 million subscribers by 2025.
At the launch event, the company’s streaming chief Jean-Briac Perrette discussed several improvements to the HBO Max interface to increase retention and engagement, adding that the company had invested in machine learning so home feeds can recommend content using a “human-plus-machine approach.”
But subscriber growth for streaming services has slowed in recent years as the market becomes more saturated. Some companies have introduced lower-priced ad-supported plans to draw people in.
Increasingly, executives have moved to highlight profitability over subscriber growth as the most important barometer for a company’s success. Netflix even announced last year that it would stop providing guidance for its membership, stating that the company is “increasingly focused on revenue as our primary top-line metric.”
When asked about the launch of Max in New Zealand, a Warner Bros. Discovery spokesperson told Newshub: “We plan to roll out Max in key Asia Pacific territories later in 2024. Details on specific markets and timelines will be announced closer to launch.”