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Warner Bros. Discovery Will Combine Streamers — and Also Keep a Separate Discovery+

WBD executives may have realized that many Discovery+ subscribers won't want to triple their monthly bill for HBO programming.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 20: David Zaslav attends NRDC's "Night Of Comedy" Honoring Anna Scott Carter at Casa Cipriani on September 20, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)

David Zaslav attends NRDC’s “Night Of Comedy” Honoring Anna Scott Carter

Getty Images

Warner Bros. Discovery probably should have paid attention to its own viral slide show, the one that showed a general lack of crossover between HBO Max and Discovery+ subscribers.

The David Zaslav-led company has planned to combine the pricey Max and inexpensive Discovery+ into a new, singular platform this spring. That will still happen, though Discovery+ also will continue as a standalone service, a person with knowledge of the plans confirmed to IndieWire. Additionally, not all Discovery programming will go to the Max/Discovery+ hybrid service; some will remain exclusive to Discovery+.

Discovery’s Shark Week stunt programming and Chip and Joanna Gaines’s Magnolia Network shows will available on both Discovery+ and the coming hybrid service. The Wall Street Journal first reported the news.

It’s a last-minute shift, but one that makes sense when you consider the price and (self-reported) fanbase disparity between the brands. Why would someone used to paying $4.99/month (with ads) or $6.99 (without) for their Discovery+ programming suddenly be cool with paying HBO’s $9.99/month (with ads) or $15.99 (without) — or realistically, a few bucks more than that when the two platforms combine — to add HBO programming they never wanted? Or at least, they didn’t want at HBO prices.

Discovery+ has about 20 million subscribers and is already profitable. Equity analysts at Wells Fargo estimate the overlap between Max and Discovery+ is about 4 million subs in the U.S.

Warner Bros. Discovery also plans to launch its own FAST (free, ad-supported streaming television) in the future. The company has already licensed a bunch of its programming, including “Westworld,” to launch branded FAST channels at Tubi and The Roku Channel.

To get here, and to achieve lofty cost-cutting goals, the company has been canceling, un-renewing, and straight-up scrubbing HBO and HBO Max programming and library content left and right. While the list is too long to, well, list, the biggest example is “Batgirl,” an $80 million completed movie that will never see the light of day. Warner Bros. Discovery instead used the HBO Max film as a tax write-off.

Zaslav and his trusty CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels will report WBD’s fourth-quarter and full-year 2022 earnings on February 23.

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