What the heck is going on at HBO Max? What does it have to do with Discovery+?
HBO Max, the home of prestigious HBO TV shows, Warner Bros. and DC Comics films, along with original series like "Sex and the City" revival "And Just Like That…," is going through some major changes this week, as its new owner plots a new strategy for the streamer and its affiliated entertainment brands, including Warner Bros. movie studios, TBS, TNT and CNN.
But in summer 2023, starting in the U.S., Warner Bros. Discovery will begin the process of combining HBO Max with its corporate cousin Discovery+, the home of reality TV from the likes of Food Network, HGTV, Magnolia Network, TLC, and Discovery Channel. This will create one big streaming service under the corporate umbrella of Warner Bros. Discovery. But what does that really mean for subscribers to each service?
We explain why the popular streaming services, which have a combined 92 million subscribing households (most to HBO Max), are undergoing a makeover.
Why is HBO Max changing at all? Why is it combining with Discovery+?
HBO Max is the streaming service started by the company formerly known as WarnerMedia, which included premium cable channel HBO, but also programming from cable networks including TBS, TNT and CNN and the Warner Bros. film studio. WarnerMedia was formerly owned by AT&T, but the conglomerate announced in 2021 that it would spin off WarnerMedia and merge it with Discovery, a company that includes networks like Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, and streaming service Discovery+. The merger became official in April, and the new company is now called Warner Bros. Discovery.
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The deal put HBO Max under new management, with its own ideas about what HBO Max should be. CEO David Zaslav confirmed what leadership has said previously in an earnings call with investors on Thursday: Warner Bros. Discovery plans to eventually combine HBO Max and Discovery+ into one. "Our main priority is launching an integrated (streaming) service," he said. The service will roll out in the U.S. in the summer of 2023 (and later in other markets), and the company will release more specific details in the months to come.
In the meantime, bits of Discovery+ are heading to HBO Max and vice versa.
What Discovery shows are coming to HBO Max? Magnolia and more
HBO Max announced Thursday that "select content" from Magnolia, currently available to stream on Discovery+, will arrive on HBO Max on Sept. 30, including "Fixer Upper: Welcome Home," "Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines,"and all five seasons of the original "Fixer Upper." The Gaines' latest series, "Fixer Upper: The Castle," will premiere concurrently on Magnolia Network, HBO Max and Discovery+ on Oct. 14.
What about Warner Bros. movies on HBO Max?
On Wednesday, news broke that Warner Bros. had axed a planned and mostly completed "Batgirl" film that was scheduled to premiere on the service, as well as DC Comics' "Wonder Twins" and "Scoob!: Holiday Haunt," previously due this holiday season.
In addition to the canceled films, fans and reporters noticed Thursday that six HBO Max original movies had been removed from the platform, including "Moonshot," starring Cole Sprouse and Lana Condor and Seth Rogen's "An American Pickle." (The titles are still available to purchase from video on demand sites).
In the earnings call, Zaslav was firm that he does not believe in releasing films straight to streaming. "We have a different view on releasing direct to streaming films and we have taken steps to course correct the previous strategy," he said, referring to previous CEO Jason Kilar's plan to offer original movies on HBO Max.
What other changes could come? For starters, CNN goes to Discovery+
Discovery+ announced Thursday that CNN programs such as "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy," "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" and "United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell" will be available on Discovery+ on Aug. 19 in a new "CNN Originals" hub. (Bourdain's first travel and food show, "No Reservations," was already on Discovery+ because it originally aired on The Travel Channel). Earlier this year, the CNN+ streaming service was scrapped by Warner Bros. Discovery leadership after just a month.
As far as other changes, kids and family programming is no longer a priority for the new company. CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels mentioned on the earnings call that they are unlikely to pursue new projects, although the company has a library of content from "Looney Tunes" to "Animaniacs."
Zaslav also addressed worries that HBO will cut back on the number of shows it produces. "We’re going to spend significantly more on the HBO Max product," he said. "We're going to spend more money on content. We're a content company." (He did not elaborate on whether that means fewer but costlier shows).
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: HBO Max and Discovery+: The merging streaming services, explained