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Warner Bros Discovery preps merged HBO Max/Discovery+ streaming service

Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) has detailed its plans to merge its streamers HBO Max and Discovery+ into one service, which will launch under a new name next year.

JB Perrette

The combined subscription platform will be ad-free, while a version that features some advertising will be made available at a slightly lower cost. However, details on pricing have not been disclosed.

A US launch for the as-yet-unnamed combined HBO Max/Discovery+ SVoD platform is expected in the summer of 2023, while WBD is eyeing launches in Latin America in the fall of 2023, with APAC and European roll-outs to follow in mid-to-late 2024.

A UK launch, however, is unlikely until at least 2025 due to WBD’s existing licensing agreements with Comcast-owned Sky that covers a large proportion of HBO programming.

Content on the combined platform will feature drama, comedy, documentaries, factual, lifestyle and reality alongside local content and sports in Europe and Latin America, as well as movies.

Ahead of the launch of the new streamer, WBD has already begun making HBO Max content available on Discovery+ and vice-versa, with a CNN hub arriving on Discovery+ on August 19, while HBO Max will start featuring content from Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network later this year.

WBD is targeting 130 million global direct-to-consumer subscribers by 2025, which would mean it would need to add around 40 million subs from its current total of 92.1 million across HBO, HBO Max and Discovery+.

The media giant is also exploring the option of launching a separate, free, ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channel once the combined SVoD service has been “firmly established” among consumers, WBD executives said yesterday during the company’s second quarter earnings call.

“Providing consumers with a range of entertainment options will maximise our reach and financial returns. We’ve also begun to explore options of how best to reach consumers in the free ad-supported streaming space,” said WBD CEO and president of global streaming and games JB Perrette on the earnings call.

The FAST service would be different programming from that available on the SVoD but would serve as an entry point to the premium service, Perrette added.

“With over 100,000 titles or episodes across our combined portfolio there’s a lot of content that wouldn’t necessarily make sense in a premium product that might make sense in FAST,” Perrette said.

Elsewhere, new WBD general manager for UK and Ireland Antonio Ruiz has set his top team following his appointment in June.

Clare Laycock is expanding her role to head of editorial, including local content production, programming and media planning. Head of factual and senior VP of marketing Simon Downing is exiting. Neil Marshall will continue to head up theatrical film distribution and local film production and acquisition.

Alison Morris will lead TV licensing and digital home entertainment distribution.

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