- Warner Bros. Discovery is considering the name “HBO Max” as well as “Max” for its next streamer.
- Insiders are scrambling to meet a spring launch date and determine pricing for the service.
- They’re also debating how to effectively promote all Discovery and HBO content on one platform.
Warner Bros. Discovery is still debating the name of its next streaming app which will combine Discovery+ and HBO Max.
“Max” is in the mix, as CNBC previously reported, but executives are also considering sticking with “HBO Max,” the name of the streamer that launched under WarnerMedia’s guidance in May 2020.
WBD announced plans last summer for the combined app, which it hopes will reduce churn, reduce costs and increase subscriptions by combining content and features from both brands. The company said HBO, known for premium scripted series like ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Succession’, skews men – while Discovery has a strong female audience and is known for unscripted fare like ’90-Day Fiancé’. and franchises like “Shark Week.”
Some CNN shows, like “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” have already moved to Discovery+ as an interim step to merge the company’s content for the new service. And HBO Max plans to run ads on HBO Originals for the first time, a change that should carry over to the combined service.
Keeping HBO in the new streamer’s name would trade on the cable brand’s prestige, and internal research has shown that HBO Max subscribers view the streamer as a must-watch, according to a source familiar with the findings. Internally, there are concerns that only “Max” could present trademark challenges and be difficult to win in online search.
Timing, price and content are subject to debate
WBD in November moved the streamer’s spring 2023 launch schedule forward from its original goal of summer, and it plans to use the Discovery+ tech backbone with some HBO Max features mixed in. One of the benefits of being released earlier is that it will have time to establish itself in the market before people go to stream the big summer movie releases.
Insiders have shared concerns that the streamer won’t have all the features planned at launch, however, and could disappoint consumers.
From an ad sales perspective, the timing isn’t ideal for WBD either, as advertisers will have incurred a large portion of their annual TV ad spend by then.
The price of the combined streamer is on the rise. Currently, Discovery+ costs $7 per month for an ad-free version and $5 per month for a light version. For HBO Max, it’s $15 and $10.
The combo app will also have an ad-free version and a light version. (Separately, WBD also plans to launch its own free, ad-supported streaming television channel, or FAST.)
WBD thinks it could charge more for an ad-free version than it currently charges for HBO Max, management said on its latest earnings call, noting that HBO Max hasn’t raised prices since its launch. HBO Max is the second most expensive major streamer out there after Netflix, whose premium tier is $20 per month.
Executives are aware that ad-free HBO Max subscribers are already paying at the top of the market while Discovery+ subscribers pay significantly less. The plan is to keep the Discovery+ streamer while trying to migrate subscribers to the new streamer, an insider noted.
Figuring out how to showcase the entire catalog of WBD content on the combined streamer without losing HBO’s prestige factor is another tall order.
Some high-profile HBO titles, including “Westworld” and “The Nevers,” are being pulled from HBO Max as WBD plans to license them to other platforms, possibly including FAST platforms.
WBD prepared for the launch of the new streamer by moving Discovery+ content to HBO Max. The HBO Max platform has historically relied heavily on human curation to determine what content to suggest to users, but teams are working on adding data-driven personalization into the mix.