Super-sized 'Max' streaming service debuts May 23

Max, a combo of HBO Max and Discovery+, will carry the same baseline prices HBO Max does now, plus a new 'Ultimate' tier that costs $19.99/month with 4K support and 100 downloads for offline viewing.

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

April 12, 2023

5 Min Read
Super-sized 'Max' streaming service debuts May 23

Aiming to expand the depth and breadth of its streaming content and audience, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) today introduced its new "Max" brand, a super-sized streaming service that will effectively combine HBO Max with Discovery+. Max is set to launch in the US on May 23.

HBO Max, a service launched nearly three years ago, will be phased out, but WBD will continue to sell Discovery+ on a standalone basis. The HBO brand will effectively become a sub-brand. Or as WBD execs put it during today's streamed presser: HBO will be a "privileged" brand that will be featured prominently within the new and larger Max service and user interface (UI).

Figure 1: By combining HBO Max with Discovery+, WBD will broaden its streaming content slate in the hopes of creating a more profitable platform that attracts a wider audience. (Source: Warner Bros. Discovery) By combining HBO Max with Discovery+, WBD will broaden its streaming content slate in the hopes of creating a more profitable platform that attracts a wider audience.
(Source: Warner Bros. Discovery)

Pricing for Max, whose tagline is "The One to Watch," will be the same as HBO Max's current ad-supported and ad-free tiers. Max will also offer a new, pricier ad-free "Ultimate" tier that will feature some enhancements that the others don't. Here's how Max pricing and features will stack up for next month's US launch:

  • Max Ad-Lite: $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year. Includes two concurrent streams, HD (1080p) resolution, 5.1 surround sound quality and no offline downloads.

  • Max Ad Free: $15.99 per month or $149.99 per year. Two concurrent streams, HD resolution, 30 offline downloads and 5.1 surround sound quality.

  • Max Ultimate Ad Free: $19.99 per month or $199.99 per year. Four concurrent streams, up to 4K resolution, 100 offline downloads and Dolby Atmos sound quality.

Gaining and retaining subs

WBD, the media giant resulting from last year's merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery, is hopeful that the combined, larger Max service will appeal to a broader audience than HBO Max and Discovery+ have on their own, and will both gain and retain subs.

Max "is the one to watch because of the one-of-a-kind storytelling from HBO Max, which drives subscriber acquisition, and the comfort viewing of Discovery+, which drives subscriber acquisition," said WBD CEO David Zaslav. "Holding subs is as important as adding subs. And together, they pack a really powerful one-two punch."

Max will also feature live sports and news, and WBD intends to bring forth an "attack plan" on how those components will play a role in the new Max service, Zaslav said.

WBD aims to use Max to simplify and improve the service and tamp down "peak confusion" that has run rampant in streaming and overloaded consumers, said JB Perrette, CEO and president of global streaming and games at WBD. Max is launching amid a "time of transition in the streaming industry," he added.

Fixing HBO Max's shortcomings

Perrette outlined a few ways Max will endeavor to iron out those issues, recognizing that the HBO Max user experience was saddled with "important shortcomings" and "suboptimal" features.

One aim with the new user experience is to increase engagement and improve content discovery.

Perrette noted that about 75% of HBO Max viewership is derived from the app's home page, while Discovery+ does a much better job drawing viewership from deeper within the app. Some of that will start with genre hubs and cinematic "hero images" for titles that "puts content first." HBO content, meanwhile, will be included in the content navigation at the top of the new UI.

The Max UI will also attempt to create a more personalized experience by tailoring content to individual viewers and will use a hybrid human/machine learning approach. The new platform will try to reduce "involuntary churn" caused by a credit card expiration or another type of billing complication with proactive tools, including alerts that can be sent to mobile devices and even the app on connected TVs.

Regarding the transition to the new offering, the HBO Max app will auto-update to Max for "most users." A smaller segment of HBO Max users will be prompted to download the new Max app with a simplified two-click process, Perrette said.

New content on tap

WBD also used the event to focus on new content that will be coming to Max. Some examples include "The Penguin," a series starring Colin Farrell, who played the villain in the latest movie from the Batman universe, and "Welcome to Derry," a prequel story tied to Stephen King's book, It.

Also on tap for Max is "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight," a new series set about a century before the original Game of Thrones series. Max will also produce a new multi-season, live action series readapting the original seven Harry Potter books that will feature a new cast and stand alongside the movies.

Max will debut in other regions later, including Latin America this fall and Europe in early 2024.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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