In this illustration photo, the Warner Bros. Discovery displayed on a smartphone screen and in the background are the HBO Max and Discovery Plus logos.
Raphael Henrique | Light flare | Getty Images
Discovery of Warner Bros. Executives are set to formalize a new name and platform for its soon-to-launch streaming service that will combine pre-existing HBO Max and Discovery+ services.
The expected name for the merged platform, “Max,” is being reviewed by the company’s attorneys, according to people familiar with the matter.
Executives have not finalized a decision and the name could still be changed, but Max is the likely choice, said the people, who asked not to be named as the discussions are private. Some senior executives are still debating a final name, two of the people said. Internally, Warner Bros. Discovery has given the new service a codename “BEAM” while a final name is being debated, the people said. Lawyers are also looking at other names.
The app itself will share similarities with Disney+’s platform, with Warner Bros. Discovery as individual tiles, the people said. HBO, Discovery, DC Comics and Warner Bros. will be among the landing hubs on the platform, the people added.
A spokesperson for Warner Bros. Discovery said a name is still under discussion.
CNBC reported last year that WarnerMedia executives wanted a new name for the combined streaming service. While branding HBO Max with HBO crystallized the product’s prestige image, several executives felt the name could eventually dilute the HBO brand as consumers confused it with anything on the streaming service.
General Manager David Zaslav cut spending on the HBO Max original series, which helped reform HBO’s brand image. Still, HBO has a limited audience that’s largely US-based, and the streaming service will offer much more than HBO – including reality TV from Discovery, current affairs documentaries from CNN, films from Warner Bros., children’s programs and maybe, eventually, live sports. Zaslav and his team see value in making HBO a sub-brand within the broader streaming offering, people familiar with their thinking have said.
The management of Warner Bros. Discovery has pushed back the launch date for the combined service to spring 2023, the company announced during its last earnings call in November. Zaslav said on an earnings conference call that a team is preparing for the launch of the combined offering and also experimenting with changes “largely to address some of the shortcomings of the existing platform.”
Zaslav noted recent changes already rolling out to HBO Max that reflect this work, including the addition of Discovery content.
“These first green shoots reinforce our strategic thesis that the two content offerings work well together and, when combined, should drive greater engagement, lower churn, and higher customer lifetime value,” Zaslav said on the call.
Pricing for the combined streaming service is still being discussed, the people said.
HBO’s Confusing Branding
There was a debate at Warner Bros. Discovery on keeping HBO on behalf of the new streaming service given its prestige. But dropping it from the name will also end a series of HBO-branded streaming services that have confused consumers. HBO Go and HBO Now preceded HBO Max.
Warner Bros. Discovery is trying to reform itself through a series of changes and cost reductions. The company is struggling with heavy debt and, like the rest of the industry, is looking to make a profit from the streaming business, rather than chasing after subscribers while spending heavily on content. Zaslav told investors in November that the goal of the company and its streaming strategy would be to achieve profitability, not necessarily subscriber numbers. The company’s goal is to generate $1 billion in streaming revenue by 2025.
“Although we still have a lot of work to do and tough decisions still to be made, we are totally convinced of the opportunity before us,” said Zaslav.
Ad-free monthly subscriptions to HBO Max and Discovery+ cost $14.99 and $6.99, respectively. They both also offer cheaper ad-supported tiers.
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