Warner Bros. Discovery on Wednesday announced plans for Max, its refreshed streaming service combining programming from both the HBO Max streaming service and Discovery+.
The newly-rebranded app will launch on May 23.
Max will cost $15.99 a month ($149.99/year) for the ad-free version and $9.99 per month ($99.99/year) for the ad-supported tier.
There’s also a third “ultimate” ad-free version with 4K UHD resolution, 100 offline downloads and Dolby Atmos sound that will be available for $19.99 a month ($199.99/year).
In unveiling the updated product at an event at the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, JB Perrette, WBD’s president and CEO of streaming and games, said Max will feature personalized recommendations across platforms for users after they finish watching a TV show or film. Previously, this was only available on the HBO Max home page. App and video start times are expected to be 20 to 30 percent faster, depending on device, Perrette said, to help address glitchiness that viewers have long taken issue with on the preceding HBO Max platform.
Existing HBO Max subscribers will maintain their access to the rebranded Max at the same price, with profiles, watch history and other viewer settings porting over to Max. Discovery+ subscribers will not be impacted by the launch of Max, though they will be given the opportunity to upgrade their subscriptions to Max.
The Max launch comes a year after WarnerMedia and Discovery completed its $43 billion merger, with the combined company led by CEO David Zaslav. Part of Zaslav’s pitch to Hollywood was the creation of a streaming service that could compete with Netflix and Disney+ by combining the best of HBO’s high-brow scripted fare with Discovery’s more low-brow but profitable lifestyle and reality programming.
By removing HBO from Max’s branding, WBD is also hoping to appeal to a wider audience that may have previously turned away from the streaming service due to HBO’s high-brow reputation and higher price point. Perrette said removing HBO from the branding was a part of “preserving and protecting the most iconic trailblazing brand in entertainment.”
“HBO is not TV. HBO is HBO. It needs to stay that way, which is why we will privilege it in the product experience and also not push it to the breaking point by forcing it to take on the full breadth of this new content proposition,” Perrette said.
To date, WBD has 96.1 million streaming subscribers across HBO, HBO Max and Discovery+. The company has not broken out its subscriber numbers per service, though Zaslav has said Discovery+ — which will remain a standalone service — is profitable and has low churn.
Ahead of the launch, WBD’s chief financial officer, Gunnar Wiedenfels, said in March at an investor conference that the new streaming service would be “absolutely critical.” “For the first time, we’re going to be able to put all the content together,” Wiedenfels said at a Morgan Stanley investor event. “We believe that that’s going to have positive impacts on engagement, on churn, on subscriber acquisition.”
We hate to say it…but with all these streaming services at all these random price points, we’re starting to miss cable.