In an earnings call today, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav announced that the merging of HBO Max and Discovery Plus was going so well that the target date for the launch of the new service would be moving from summer 2023 to spring 2023.
From their user interface to their backend to their content, the two services are extraordinarily different, with HBO Max likely leading Discovery Plus in subscriptions as it had approximately 76.8 million users in April before the acquisition, and the combined services now have 94.9 million subscribers. But Zaslav’s plan has always been to merge the two services, which his team views as targeting very different markets. Early this year, a slide claiming HBO Max skewed male and Discovery Plus skewed female offended users of both services even while reinforcing Zaslav’s view on the matter.
Zaslav, as I’ve noted before, isn’t particularly concerned with who gets offended in his quest to make Warner Bros. Discovery a profitable company. On the earnings call, he noted that when the show Fixer Upper: The Castle premiered on HBO Max, it quickly moved into the top five most watched shows on the service, confirming WBD’s “thesis” that a combined app will be more successful and drive more subscriptions and less churn. The show also aired on the Magnolia Network and streamed on Discovery Plus.
It’s Zaslav’s hope that this merged app will drive not just increased subscriptions but also significantly higher advertising revenue. As for the content coming to the new service, the plan is to spend even more money on new content. “We’re leaning in,” he said on the call. Though he noted early in the call that “It’s no longer about how much, it’s about how good.”
To that end, he also mentioned the content abruptly pulled from WBD’s services earlier this year. The removals happened so suddenly they often surprised even the show creators themselves. “We didn’t take one show off the platform that was gonna help us in any way,” Zaslav said, noting that WBD was directing the money saved toward new content. This is likely great to hear if you have a new Game of Thrones pitch but absolutely lousy if you’re one of the many animation creators who saw their shows disappear overnight.
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