Is HBO Max Going To Be Free To Watch?

We know when the HBO Max-Discovery streaming service will launch, but not how much it will cost.

HBO built its reputation by having the best shows in the business, and the deepest library of classic films. But lately, all the real drama has been happening behind the scenes.

It’s been an eventful month for Warner Bros. Discovery  (WBD) – Get Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. Report, the company formed after the $43 billion merger between Warner Bros. and Discovery that was completed this spring. After the merger, new CEO David Zaslav, the former head of Discovery who oversaw the merger, pledged to shareholders that he would find $3 billion in savings.

Some of that would reportedly come from cutbacks and layoffs in the new company’s administration, such as attorneys and accountants. But a lot of it came from canceling TV shows along the company’s portfolio, which includes channels such as TBS, TNT and The Cartoon Network. 

Onlookers were shocked when the Emmy-winning talk show “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” was canceled, and everyone was full-on stunned when the nearly completed, $70 million dollar “Batgirl” film, which was set to debut on HBO Max later this year was canceled, as part of a shift away from making mid-budget films for the streaming service.

But in a recent earnings call with investors, Zaslav laid out some of his plans for the future of HBO Max. Many people on Twitter are already displeased, but there’s one piece of news that should delight budget-conscious TV fans.

A Free Option (Maybe) And A New Name (Possibly)

It’s been known since spring that HBO Max, the streaming service launched by HBO last year, would be combined with Discovery’s streaming service Discovery+., HBO Max carried material from Adult Swim, the Turner Classic Movie Channel and more while Discovery+ aired reality series from Animal Planet, TLC and HGTBV. 

JB Perrette, CEO and president of global streaming and games for Warner Bros. Discovery, confirmed that the new service will debut next summer, and will combine “the most acclaimed streaming service among consumers,” and  Discovery+’s library of “real-life entertainment,” for “the best of both,” and “there’s something for everyone in the household,” he said. 

So if she likes “The Wire” and he likes “House Hunters,” everyone will be happy, in theory. Perrette noted that at the end of the day the “leading objective is growing engagement.”

The new streaming service will also be the hub for CNN Originals, which includes series like “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy” and “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.”

After debuting in America next summer, the new service will debut in Latin America in the fall of 2023, Europe in early 2024, Asia Pacific in mid-2024; and elsewhere in fall 2024.

The new streaming will be available in both an “ad-lite” tier and a presumably more expensive “ad-free” plan, with an exact price to be announced later.

Interestingly, Perrette confirmed that Warner Bros. Discovery is considering a completely free, advertiser-supported version of HBO Max, saying the company is  “exploring how to reach customers in the free, ad-supported space” with content that is totally different from what’s on the HBO Max service, and would not include many premium shows.

So you know, like a television channel. (So much for “It’s Not TV, It’s HBO.”)

If there will be a change to the HBO Max name, possibly to incorporate the Discovery brand, that is also something that will be announced closer to launch.

Is The DC Universe Getting A Reboot?

Additionally, Zaslav addressed the recent cancellation of “Batgirl,” and ensured investors he has a new, 10-year plan for the DC Universe. He is looking for a new creative team to take over, possibly replacing the rumored to depart executive Walter Hamada, President of DC films.

The new approach will be similar to the one used by Disney’s  (DIS) – Get The Walt Disney Company Report world-conquering Marvel Cinematic Universe. Whether that means a soft reboot of the existing film continuity or starting completely over with new actors and a new universe is currently unclear.

“You look at Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman — these are brands that are known everywhere in the world,” Zaslav said.” We have done a reset. We’ve restructured the business where we are going to focus, where there is going to be a team with a 10-year plan focusing just on DC. We believe we can build a much more sustainable business.

“We think we can build a much stronger, sustainable growth business out of DC,” said Zaslav. “As part of that, we are going to focus on quality. We are not going to release any film before it’s ready…. DC is something we can make better.”

The company revealed that HBO Max and Discovery+. had a combined total of 92.1 million subscribers last quarter. The company said it expects to reach 130 million global streaming customers by 2025.

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