HBO Max will officially merge with the Discovery+ streaming service, Warner Bros. Discovery announced Thursday. The new service is planned to launch in the U.S. next summer.
Amid rumors of mass layoffs and a shift away from scripted TV and films, what parent company Warner Bros. Discovery’s move means for Max Originals like “Hacks” and “FBoy Island.” It’s not currently known what Max offerings will survive the move.
President and CEO David Zaslav announced the company’s goal of operating as “one company with one mission” at Thursday’s WB-Discovery quarterly earnings call.
Together, both services have 92 million total users, Zaslav said.
Warner Bros. Discovery said combining the services was in hopes to remedy glitchy interface (HBO Max) and limited audience reach (Discovery+), in addition to, as the company says, uniting HBO Max’s “male skew” and Discovery+’s “female skew.” Overall, the company says the shift is the latest course-correction measure in its model, which also included the shutdown of the CNN+ just a month after its April launch.
The news comes days after Warner Bros. announced it would shelve its $90 million “Batgirl” film, which is already completed. The film isn’t currently even slated to make it to streaming, but the company is planning to use it as a tax write-off, according to the Hollywood Reporter and other outlets.
“Batgirl,” which was set to be Michael Keaton’s first return as Batman since 1992, was in production before the WB-Discovery Inc. merger. According to the studio, shelving the film came after poor audience testing. But many have noted the many DC Comics films that received both negative reviews and still got a release. In a statement, a Warner Bros. representative said the decision “reflects a strategic shift as it relates to the DC Universe and HBO Max.”
The studio is also shelving the animated “Scoob!” prequel, which was nearly complete. On Thursday, Zaslav said it doesn’t currently make economic sense to release big-budget films directly to streaming.
In the past few days, several Max Originals have also disappeared from the service, including the Seth Rogen vehicle “An American Pickle” and the teen romcom “Moonshot.” It’s unlikely any strictly HBO shows or films could face cancelation, as Warner Bros. Discovery’s statements have only related to Max-only content.
Shows that could be on the chopping block include DC Comics’ “Peacemaker” and comedy-drama “The Sex Lives of College Girls.” In the meantime, Discovery originals like Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network shows are expected to move to HBO Max next month.
Reaction to the possibility of HBO Max’s dissolution was fierce, with “HBO Max” trending on Twitter Wednesday and Thursday.
“HBO Max is by far the best of the streamers with a great catalogue of shows and movies — not sure what the thought process here is other than corporate greed,” tweeted actor and writer Emmy Potter. Entertainment writer Eric Francisco echoed the sentiment, saying: “The crumbling of HBO Max before our eyes is infuriating. Not because we should love HBO unconditionally but because the service has easily the best library of classic shows and movies AND daring originals that never feel like they’re made by algorithms.”
Warner Bros. Discovery did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The company says the new service would rollout globally after a successful U.S. rollout and that pricing information will be coming as 2023 nears. Warner Bros. Discovery didn’t say what the new service will be called.