After all of the cancellations and moves to combine HBO Max with Discovery+, the plan as everyone initially knew it seems to be off.
According to Variety, Warner Bros. Discovery will keep Discovery+ as its own entity, reneging on the plan to combine the streaming service with the company’s other streaming service, HBO Max. The outlet cites The Wall Street Journal, which wrote that people close to the situation have said that instead, Warner Bros. Discovery will launch a new platform, believed to be titled just ‘Max,’ that features content from both streaming services while Discovery+ remains as a “stand-alone option.”
While a source said that the plan to create the combined platform hasn’t changed, Warner Bros. Discovery has decided to keep Discovery+ separate in the U.S. in order to avoid possibly losing a large part of the 20 million subscribers who could leave. Discovery+ is cheaper than the upcoming combined platform, which is estimated to cost more than the $15.99 a month HBO Max does. Making Discovery+ subscribers pay more for could make them unsubscribe altogether.
Warner Bros. Discovery is also set to launch a FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV) channel later this year, with offerings such as Westworld, Legendary, FBoy Island, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Raised by Wolves, Finding Magic Mike, The Nevers and Head of the Class soon to be available via Tubi and Roku. These shows were removed from HBO Max, presumably for this purpose. Several, like Legendary and FBoy Island, were also canceled as a result of HBO Max trying to find reductions in its spending and redundancies in content similar to Discovery+.
But since these cancellation decisions–and other cancellations including Issa Rae’s Sweet Life: Los Angeles, Gossip Girl, Minx and the entire Batgirl film–were made when company head David Zaslav has been reported as preparing to merge streaming services, what does it mean now that the original plan has been shifted? Does it make those cancellations pointless? And, since many of the shows canceled were ones that catered to marginalized communities, does this send the message that shows with a central non-white, non-straight focus are deemed as less than other shows?
There are still lots of questions, but with the revamped combined platform being moved up to a spring release instead of in the summer, as previously reported, Warner Bros. Discovery must feel like it has a handle on the situation. From the outside, though, it feels like nonsensical.