Warner Bros Discovery is on the verge of choosing Max as HBO Max’s alternative

In this photo illustration the Warner Bros. Discovery logo seen on a smartphone screen with the HBO Max and Discovery Plus logos in the background.

Rafael Henrique | Light Rocket | Getty Images

Warner Bros. Discovery Executives are on the verge of formulating a new name and platform for the soon-to-be-launched streaming service, which will combine the already existing HBO Max and Discovery+ services.

The expected name of the merged platform, “Max,” is being reviewed by the company’s lawyers, according to people familiar with the matter.

Executives have yet to make a final decision and the name could still be changed, but Max is the likely choice, said people, who asked not to be named because discussions are private. Some executives are still debating a final name, two of the people said. Internally, Warner Bros. Discovery has codenamed the new service “BEAM,” while a final name is under discussion, people said. Lawyers are also checking other names.

The app itself will have similarities to Disney+’s platform, with Warner Bros. Discovery brands as individual tiles, people said. HBO, Discovery, DC Comics and Warner Bros. will be among the landing centers on the platform, the people added.

A spokesman for Warner Bros. Discovery said a name is still being discussed.

CNBC reported last year that WarnerMedia executives wanted a new name for the combined streaming service. While HBO Max’s branding with HBO crystallized the product’s prestige image, several executives felt the name could ultimately dilute the HBO brand, with consumers confusing it with everything on the streaming service.

Chief Executive David Zaslav has cut spending on HBO Max original series, which has helped reform HBO’s branding. Still, HBO has a limited audience, mostly based in the U.S., and the streaming service will offer a lot more than HBO — including reality TV from Discovery, news documentaries from CNN, movies from Warner Bros., children’s programming, and possibly live sports. Zaslav and his team see value in making HBO a sub-brand within the larger streaming offering, people familiar with their mindset said.

Warner Bros. Discovery management has pushed back the launch date for the combined service to Spring 2023, the company announced in its recent conference call in November. Zaslav said during a conference call on the results that a team is preparing to launch the combined offering and is also experimenting with changes “in large part to address some of the shortcomings of the existing platform.”

Zaslav pointed out the recent changes already rolling out on HBO Max that reflect this work, including the addition of Discovery content.

“These early green shoots reinforce our strategic thesis that the two content offerings should work well together and, when combined, should result in increased engagement, reduced churn, and higher customer lifetime value,” Zaslav said on the conference call.

The pricing of the combined streaming service is still being discussed, the people said.

HBO’s confusing branding

There has been debate at Warner Bros. Discovery about keeping HBO in the new streaming service’s name given its prestige. But the removal from the name will also end a number of HBO-branded streaming services that have been confusing consumers. HBO Go and HBO Now preceded HBO Max.

Warner Bros. Discovery is attempting to reform through a series of changes and cost cuts. The company is struggling with a heavy debt load and, like the rest of the industry, is figuring out how to make its streaming business profitable rather than chasing subscribers while spending big bucks on content. Zaslav told investors in November that the focus for the business and its streaming strategy would be achieving profitability and not necessarily subscriber numbers. The company’s goal is to reach $1 billion in streaming revenue by 2025.

“Although we still have a lot of work ahead of us and some difficult decisions ahead of us, we are absolutely convinced of the opportunity that lies ahead of us,” said Zaslav.

Ad-free monthly subscriptions for HBO Max and Discovery+ are $14.99 and $6.99, respectively. Both also offer cheaper ad-supported tiers.

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