Warner Bros. Discovery May Not Combine HBO Max With Discovery Plus After All (UPDATED)

HBO Max and Discovery Plus rollup
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Warner Bros. Discovery might be flip-flopping on a plan to combine its HBO Max and Discovery Plus streaming services into a single direct-to-consumer product.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the debt-laden WBD now plans to keep Discovery Plus as a stand-alone service.

The company has previously stated that its strategy would be to combine the products. A new name — Max — leaked out. Wall Street seemed to like the idea, as Warner Bros. Discovery stock popped up on news the amalgamation might happen in the spring, sooner than previously expected.

The combined service would have more programming and more scale to compete with Netflix and The Walt Disney Co. in the streaming wars.

But now, the strategy has changed. According to the Journal report, Warner Bros. Discovery execs were concerned that many of the 20 million subscribers to profitable Discovery Plus might drop out rather than pay for a higher-priced combined service.

Under the new plan, some Discovery Plus content will also be available on Max, including Shark Week and material from Magnolia Network, the company’s joint venture with Chip and Joanna Gaines.

A Warner Bros. Discovery spokesman confirmed that Discovery Plus would continue to exist as a low-priced option for consumers. The service would maintain a connection with Discovery fans and provide a pipeline for marketing and data collection. 

The spokesman said the company's strategy hadn't changed and that a larger scale product combining HBO Max's content with most of what's on Discovery Plus is still coming to market.

To save money, Warner Bros. Discovery has been moving content off HBO Max. The company takes write offs on that content and is also able to reduce payments to the show’s creators.

Some of that content is being used to create free, ad-supported streaming television networks that are being launched under deals with Roku and Tubi. ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.