Warner Bros. Discovery reengineers the traditional TV bundle for the streaming era
Everything old is new again.
Warner Bros. Discovery unveiled its super-streamer, Max, to the world on Wednesday, with Chief Executive David Zaslav touting the platform as a service “every member of the household” can go to for their television needs.
Max unites some of the industry’s most storied brands under one roof, giving consumers access to a library of programming across WBD’s sprawling portfolio: films by Warner Bros., children’s content from Cartoon Network, premium shows by HBO and unscripted programming from HGTV, TLC, Food Network and many others. Zaslav signaled the package will also at some point be infused with news and sports, given that WBD owns properties such as Turner Sports and CNN.
In effect, WBD announced that it is recreating the bundle, erecting the pillars of a one-stop shop for scripted and unscripted television, movies, news and sports at a flat monthly rate. The only meaningful difference: instead of it being distributed through cable by a third-party, it will be transmitted direct-to-consumer over the internet.
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“It’s the one to watch because we have so many of the world’s iconic and globally recognized franchises,” Zaslav said at the press event, both referencing the service’s new tagline and also leaning into the concept of a bundle that marries all the elements of traditional linear television.
“It’s our superpower,” Zaslav added, describing the package as “streaming’s version of must-see TV.”
It’s a notably different approach from what Disney has done in the streaming space. Insider Intelligence analyst Paul Verna noted to me that the WBD competitor has “resisted the temptation” to combine Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+. Instead, Verna observed that Disney is “leaning into each brand’s core strength,” though Disney does offer the ability to purchase the individual services in a bundle.
“WBD has clearly decided on the opposite approach,” Verna said.
Which company is ultimately proven to have the more effective strategy remains to be seen. But it goes without saying that Max — the product of the merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery — represents the future for WBD, which has been entrenched in the declining traditional TV business. Zaslav nodded at this during the press event, saying that Max positions the company for the “next century.”
For now, Max’s pricing will be divided up into three tiers: The least expensive is the $9.99 ad-supported model, while the ad-free version will cost $15.99, matching the price of the existing HBO Max service. Users who want 4K will have to buy the Max “ultimate plan” for $19.99.
The Max service launches May 23.