HBO Max is dead? If you enjoy HBO Max as much as we do, we have some bad news for you. When it comes to the HBO Max and Discovery Plus combination, there’s a new nightmare scenario. Yes, in case you haven’t heard, Discovery’s acquisition of WarnerMedia from AT&T, which resulted in the mouthful of a new moniker Warner Bros. Discovery, meant that we’d be getting a single service that combined the two. So we reasoned.
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HBO Max is dead – Discovery Plus rumored to take over
Today’s news, on the other hand, is quite concerning for anything bearing the HBO Max logo (which we still maintain is the best streaming service). On Tuesday (August 2), there was a lot of upheaval, with HBO Max’s Batgirl movie being scrapped after Warner spent $90 million into it and word that six HBO Max original films have disappeared from the service, other shoes started to drop.
Tony Maglio of IndieWire then stated that additional changes were on the way, all in the name of cutting expenses when HBO Max and Discovery Plus merge. Of course, the question is how they want to combine these two services.
Then, on Wednesday afternoon, The Wrap shattered the dam with a stunning new story claiming that “HBO Max development is set to be especially badly hit with layoffs, with two sources putting the amount of dev team losses at 70%.” According to one source, HBO’s “workers are ‘all freaking out,’ and “all I know is they’re integrating HBO Max into HBO, and there will be redundancies.”
All we knew before today was a rumour spread by Beyond The Trailer YouTuber Grace Randolph. Some credit Randolph as an insider, whereas James Gunn doesn’t appear to trust her, to put it mildly. And her rumour appears to be more true than ever.
HBO Max lovers are in for a nightmare.
Randolph tweeted ahead of Warner Bros. Discovery’s Q2 earnings on Thursday (August 4), “here’s the RUMOR re the #WBD presentation,” with the following notes: HBO Max would join Discovery Plus, “presumably as a #HBO tab,” and the new service would “get rid of #HBOMax narrative, overall streaming focused on unscripted.”
There is one major asterisk in Randolph’s later threaded tweet: “#HBOMax originals, if they hang around, will I guess become #HBO shows?” “The commercial beauty of this is that Discovery cares about Discovery, therefore it builds up their service even if at some later date they decide to sell WB,” Randolph concludes the short thread.
This would essentially require devoted HBO Max subscribers to join a new (presumably more costly) streaming service in order to continue receiving access to their favourite series and movies, while perhaps receiving less of that content.
This also doesn’t address where the licenced HBO Max material – seasons of Friends, Studio Ghibli films, and other titles — would end up. Within the new “HBO” tab?
HBO Max is renamed the HBO section.
So, what happens next? According to The Wrap, a Hollywood agent with knowledge of the preparations said “HBO is really safe. If this were ‘Game of Thrones,’ Casey Bloys would have won.”
Yes, HBO Max has just re-invested in the guy behind its programming, Casey Bloys, who serves as HBO and HBO Max’s chief content officer. Bloys secured a new five-year contract with Warner Bros. Discovery, according to a Variety article dated July 2022. But consider his divided titles from the perspective of a cost-cutting executive. Why have him handle both HBO and HBO Max material when he could handle just one?
Bloys appears to be returning to lead a single team with a presumably lesser budget. WBD has been cancelling a slew of scripted shows, including TNT’s Snowpiercer, TBS’ The Last O.G., and HBO Max’s Made For Love.
Some HBO Max projects may return under the HBO banner, since Bloys has stated openly that a third season of The Flight Attendant is a distinct possibility. Peacemaker, Harley Quinn, Our Flag Means Death, and Hacks are among the shows we hope will survive.
Why do we hope this rumour is false?
The key question Warner Bros. Discovery executives are probably debating is “which streaming service is more important?” With the possible death of HBO Max, it appears that they have made their decision.
To compare HBO Max and Discovery Plus is to compare apples and pineapples. The former is largely scripted programming, whereas the latter is mostly unscripted stuff. Given that Discovery acquired WarnerMedia, one could argue that certain executives may have preferred Discovery Plus above the other services (as Randolph suggests).
Randolph’s story makes sense for one simple reason: this is now Discovery’s company. And it’s difficult to imagine them wanting to make their service a tab within someone else’s app. However, we’d prefer to see a Discovery Plus hub in HBO Max rather than an HBO tab in the Discovery Plus app. HBO Max appears to be a brand that may accommodate Discovery, correct?
But this is all for show. What is more important is how much this new service will cost (a price hike seems inevitable). If the price is slightly higher and the reduced amount of HBO Max content is minor, this could be tolerated. However, if the price rises while HBO Max content decreases, Warner Bros. Discovery may suffer.