What the heck is going on at HBO Max?
The streaming service, the home of prestigious HBO TV shows, Warner Bros. and DC Comics films, along with original series like “Sex and the City” revival “And Just Like That,” is going through some major changes this week, as its new owner plots a new strategy for the streamer and its affiliated entertainment brands, including Warner Bros. movie studios, TBS, TNT and CNN.
But why are movies like “Batgirl” getting the ax? Why are shows like “Fixer Upper” going to stream alongside “The Sopranos” and “FBoy Island”? We explain why the popular streaming services, which currently has 74 million subscribers, is undergoing a makeover.
Why is HBO Max changing at all?
HBO Max is the streaming service started by the company formerly known as WarnerMedia, which included premium cable channel HBO, but also programming from cable networks including TBS, TNT and CNN and the Warner Bros. film studio. WarnerMedia was formerly owned by AT&T, but the conglomerate announced in 2021 that it would spin off WarnerMedia and merge it with Discovery, a company that includes networks like Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, and streaming service Discovery +. The merger became official in April, and the new company is now called Warner Bros. Discovery.
The deal put HBO Max under new management, with its own ideas about what HBO Max should be.
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What Discovery shows are coming to HBO Max? Magnolia and more
HBO Max is getting a big addition from its new corporate cousin: Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network.
HBO Max announced Thursday that “select content” from Magnolia, currently available to stream on Discovery +, will arrive on HBO Max Sept. 30, including “Fixer Upper: Welcome Home,” “Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines,” “The Lost Kitchen,” “Growing Floret, Family Dinner with Andrew Zimmern,” “Restoration Road with Clint Harp,” “Maine Cabin Masters” and all five seasons of the original “Fixer Upper.” The Gaines’ latest series, “Fixer Upper: The Castle,” will premiere concurrently on Magnolia Network, HBO Max and Discovery + on Oct. 14.
What about Warner Bros. movies on HBO Max?
On Wednesday news broke that Warner Bros. had axed a planned and mostly completed “Batgirl” film that was scheduled to premiere on the service, as well as “Scoob !: Holiday Haunt,” previously due this holiday season.
In addition to the canceled films, fans and reporters noticed Thursday that six HBO Max original movies had been removed from the platform, including “Moonshot,” starring Cole Sprouse, and Lana Condor and Seth Rogen’s “American Pickle.” (The titles are still available to purchase from video on demand sites).
Under new Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, Warner Bros. is shifting its strategy on film releases and trimming costs. Under previous CEO Jason Kilar (partly as a pandemic response), the studio opened films simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max in 2021. Other films, like “Batgirl,” were targeted solely for HBO Max.
This year, Warner Bros. has returned to exclusive theatrical windows for at least 45 days before sending movies to HBO Max. While “Batgirl” isn’t as pricey as many superhero films, which typically cost $ 150 million to $ 200 million to make, it’s a bigger-budget movie for an HBO Max title. Zaslav has maintained that costlier movies are best served by a theatrical rollout. Yet marketing a movie like “Batgirl” for that kind of release would require tens of millions more.
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What other changes could come? For starters, CNN goes to Discovery +
The movement of shows among streamers is in both directions.
Discovery + announced Thursday that CNN programs such as “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy,” “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” and “United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell” will be available on Discovery + Aug. 19 in a new “CNN Originals “hub. (Bourdain’s first travel and food show, “No Reservations,” was already on Discovery + because it originally aired on The Travel Channel). Earlier this year, the CNN + streaming servic, was scrapped by Warner Bros. Discovery leadership after just a month.
This type of content sharing will likely be the norm moving forward until Discovery + and HBO Max combine into one service. The leadership of the newly merged company has been public about its intention to eventually combine Discovery + and HBO Max into one streaming service. In March CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels explained that before the service can be combined, it would experiment with discounted “bundling” to smooth the transition, much as Disney does with Disney +, Hulu and ESPN +. “So right out of the gate, we’re working on getting the bundling approach ready,” he said during the Deutsche Bank 30th Annual Media, Internet & Telecom Conference, according to Variety. “Building one very, very strong combined direct-to-consumer product and platform, that’s going to take a while.”
Further changes in strategy are expected to be announced on a second-quarter earnings call Thursday.
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Contributing: The Associated Press, Naledi Ushe, Charles Trepany, USA TODAY