HBO Max becomes Max in Warner Bros Discovery streaming revamp

Company unveils new 'Max' streaming platform in push for growth against competitors such as Netflix

The star of HBO's 'Succession', Brian Cox. Getty
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Warner Bros Discovery said on Wednesday it would on May 23 launch its long-awaited new streaming service called "Max", which combines HBO Max's movies and TV shows with Discovery's documentaries.

Prices for Max will range from $9.99 a month for the version with advertising to $19.99 a month for "Max Ultimate" — the ad-free membership that allows streaming on four devices at once.

The new service will test chief executive David Zaslav's ambition to make one of the world's leading streaming services by assembling a collection of differing programmes.

At the launch of the service, Mr Zaslav said HBO's "one-of-a-kind storytelling" would bring subscribers to the service while Discovery's documentaries will hold them.

The absence of HBO in the name of the new service was explained by streaming chief J B Perrette, who said, "HBO is HBO" and it "should not be pushed to the breaking point" by taking on a wide variety of content.

The service will feature HBO content including Emmy award-winning drama series Succession and hit video-game adaptation The Last of Us.

It will have new titles based on well-known franchises, including an adaptation of J K Rowling's Harry Potter stories and a prequel to Game of Thrones called A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight.

The chance to better capitalise on the streaming revolution was one of the justifications for the merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia in 2022.

But by the time the deal closed in April last year, Wall Street's enthusiasm for streaming had begun to wane, as Netflix reported its first loss of subscribers in more than a decade.

Investors began to give priority to profits over subscriber gains, bringing in a new frugality across Hollywood.

"We are not trying to win the direct-to-consumer spending war," Mr Zaslav assured investors shortly after the merger was finalised.

It licensed some shows to other streaming services, as Warner Bros Discovery looked for new ways to make money from its film and television libraries.

Like other media companies, Warner Bros Discovery has yet to make a profit on its HBO Max and Discovery+ streaming services, although it has reduced losses from them.

Streaming remains a priority for the company, which has set a subscriber goal of 130 million by 2025, compared with Netflix's 231 million subscribers.

Updated: April 12, 2023, 7:10 PM