Warner Bros. Discovery Officially Bows Max On May 23

Max logo
Max logo (Image credit: Warner Bros. Discovery)

Warner Bros. Discovery formally said that its new streaming service combining HBO Max with content from Discovery Plus will be called Max.

Max will cost the same price as HBO Max, with a light-ads version at $9.99 and an ad-free version for $15.99. There will also be an Ultimate version for $19.99 with features including 4K video, four concurrent streams and 100 downloads.

Existing monthly subscribers will still have access to their current plan features for at least six months. After that, they will have to upgrade to the ultimate plan if they want the additional features. The HBO Max app will automatically update to the Max app for the vast majority of viewers, the company said. Others will be prompted to make the update, but user names and passwords will not be affected. Discovery Plus subscribers will not be affected.

Speaking from Warner Bros. Stage 14, where films including Casablanca, A Streetcar Named Desire and Gremlins were shot, WBD CEO David Zaslav said at a launch event for Max last month that the new service would launch May 23 and use the slogan "The One To Watch."

“It’s the one to watch because it’s the place every member of the household can go to see exactly what they want at any given time,“ Zaslav said. “From House of the Dragon and Succession to Property Brothers and Barefoot Contessa, from The Joker and Aquaman 2 to Million Dollar Baby and Elvis." 

“Max is the one to watch because we have the largest TV library in the world, thousands of shows Including shows that are loved everywhere like Friends, ER and Big Bang Theory,” he added. “And we have a number of the biggest quality makers of content that will feed and grow Max in the years ahead. They’re ours.” 

Streaming has proved to be a costly business for legacy media companies and since its merger, Warner Bros. Discovery has focused on cutting costs and removing programming from HBO Max.

At the presentation, the company focused on shows it would be adding, notably a new Game of Thrones prequel, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight, and a TV series that is expected to last for 10 years recounting the stories in the seven Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. 

Max offers programming from HBO Max, the streaming service started by WarnerMedia when it was owned by AT&T, and Discovery Plus, launched by Discovery before it bought WarnerMedia from AT&T.

One-Two Punch

Max will have “one-of-a-kind storytelling from HBO Max, which drives subscriber acquisition,” as well as the “comfort viewing” of Discovery Plus, which drives subscriber retention, Zaslav said. “Holding subs is as important ad adding subs and together they pack a really powerful one-two punch.”

Zaslav said Max will eventually feature news and sports as well.  

Also Read: After Carpet-Bombing His Way to Better WBD Streaming Economics, Zaslav Effectively Lays Out a Rebuilding Plan With the Rebranded ‘Max’

 JB Perrette, president of global streaming and games for WBD, said that for the past decade, streaming has been driven by a “subscriber growth at all cost mentality” and created a deluge of content. With the announcement of Max, Perrette said the company’s financial and subscriber goals are unchanged from last summer and that profitability, not scale, was WBD’s focus. 

“We suddenly find ourselves in the fog of what many people have dubbed, the era of peak confusion,” Perrette said. “The result is that consumers are overloaded. So, in this era of peak confusion, we're trying to simplify and improve the experience for consumers focusing on quality not just quantity.”

Honing the Brands

Removing HBO from the service’s brand will help Max attract kids and family viewers. Perrette said that since launching HBO Max, its share of kids’ viewing has dwindled.

“We all love HBO and it’s a brand that has been built over five decades to be the edgy, groundbreaking trendsetter in entertainment for adults,“ he said. “But it's not exactly where parents would most eagerly drop off their kids. Max will better curate our rich history of amazing animation, seminal children’s television, and blockbusters the whole family can enjoy,”

The new Max menu will prioritize the user experience for kids, Perrette said. 

Perrette added that the company will be protecting and preserving the HBO brand. “HBO is not TV. HBO Is HBO. It needs to stay that way,” he said. Undoing the strategy created by WarnerMedia under AT&T to increase engagement, “we will not push it to the breaking point by forcing it to take on the full breadth of this new content proposition.” 

In terms of business goals, Perrette said the most important metric that needed to increase engagement. While HBO Max had plenty of content a lot of it wasn’t watched because it was hard to find, he said.

Max will use some techniques Discovery Plus used to improve circulation and content discovery including bigger images, inline video and a simple user interface. Top brands and popular genres will serve as hubs. A new shortcut to save shows to watch later, as well as content recommendations, have been added that are personalized to individual users, using both machine learning and a human editorial voice.

JB Perrette speaks at Max launch event

Warner Bros. Discovery president of global streaming and games JB Perrette speaks at the Max launch event.  (Image credit: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for HBO)

Perrette said half of the churn Warner Bros. Discovery sees comes when a subscriber’s credit card expires. Max’s new platform will enable it to alert customers with payment notifications, some of which can appear on connected TV screens.

The new Max app will start quicker and have 20% to 30% faster response times, and the download feature has been rebuilt to make it more dependable, Perrette said.

The platform’s architecture will also make it easier for Max to increase monetization by being able to make pricing and promotional changes in a day. Under the old system, those changes required several weeks of engineering work. Max will also have a full suite of ad products for advertisers.

The HBO Max app will automatically update to the Max app for the vast majority of our viewers, the company said. Others will be prompted to make the update, but user names and passwords will not be affected. Perrette said Discovery Plus subscribers will be offered "various opportunities to try out Max.” 

An extensive ad campaign has been promoting Max, leveraging the company’s cable networks and digital properties.

This story was updated from one originally published April 12.

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.