In a change of strategy, Warner Bros Discovery has ditched plans to merge streaming services HBO Max and Discovery+, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In a report this morning citing unidentified insiders, the news outlet said the decision came after research suggested Discovery+ subscribers could balk at paying a higher price. A WBD rep did not immediately respond to Deadline’s request for comment.
HBO Max costs $16 a month, or $10 with ads, compared with $7 and $5 for the respective equivalents of Discovery+. Over the past several months, WBD execs have talked of combining the two into a single offering. HBO Max has been featuring Discovery titles more prominently on its home page, even though the ultimate fit between prestige HBO fare and Discovery mainstays like 90-Day Fiancé has been questioned both inside and outside of the company.
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The plan now, per the WSJ report, is to continue to have Discovery+ in the market even as a newly rebranded service hits the market in the spring. The heavy betting is that HBO Max will be renamed Max, reflecting its broader subscriber orientation and ambitions to transcend its premium-cable roots. At the same time WBD is continuing to pursue its subscription streaming business, it is also stepping up its efforts in the free, ad-supported streaming realm. The company recently reached a deal with Roku and Tubi to license a number of shows from Warner Bros Television and HBO, and it is planning to launch FAST channels later this year.
WarnerMedia, which launched HBO Max in 2020, closed its $43 billion merger with Discovery last April. Like many media peers, it is managing through continued decline in the linear TV business and uncertainty around profit models in streaming. The combined company has not broken out subscriber numbers for Discovery+, which launched in early 2021, for several quarters. Instead, it has rolled them into an overall subscriber number, including linear HBO.
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