Warner Bros. Discovery may be taking streaming to the ‘Max’

In a move that could cause even more brand confusion in the streaming market, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) is considering "Max" as the name for a streaming service brand that combines HBO Max and Discovery+, CNBC reported.

Lawyers are currently vetting the proposed name as WBD prepares to launch the combined super-sized streaming service sometime in the spring of 2023, the report added. The service will deliver a library of fare from HBO, Discovery, DC Comics, CNN and other properties under the WBD umbrella. Adding live sports to the mix is reportedly also a possibility.

(Source: Michael Zech/Alamy Stock Photo)
(Source: Michael Zech/Alamy Stock Photo)

The Max brand would draw from the past – an apparent homage to the Cinemax premium video service – and use an element of HBO Max, a service launched in May 2020 that is marketed using a direct-to-consumer (DTC) model through various distribution partners including cable, telco and Internet-delivered pay-TV services.

CNBC's sources noted that WBD might still go in a different direction on the name but said Max was the "likely choice." The company is reportedly using the code name "BEAM" for the coming super-sized streaming service while it deliberates about the name.

WBD, the result of the recent merger of AT&T's WarnerMedia and Discovery Inc., no doubt wants to create a broader service that encompasses its full slate of content. But a new brand could further dilute the HBO brand.

It may cause additional confusion for consumers, who are already managing multiple subscription and ad-supported streaming services and trying to navigate which of them distribute their favorite original programs, TV series and movies. Confusion ran rampant when the launch of HBO Max accelerated the sunsetting of the former HBO Go and HBO Now services, and left subscribers wondering what it all would mean for the legacy HBO service.

WBD chief David Zaslav believes there's value in making HBO a "sub-brand" within the proposed, larger streaming service, CNBC noted.

Reacting on Twitter, LightShed Partners analyst Richard Greenfield said he believes the decision could help WBD branch out without having to make changes to HBO:

The strategy would be somewhat similar to that of the former ViacomCBS (now Paramount Global), which changed the name and broadened the scope of the CBS All Access streaming service with the March 2021 launch of Paramount+.

Disney has taken a different approach at this point. Instead of combining streaming services into one, it's focused on bundles that bring together Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+. But changes could be in store there as Bob Iger retakes Disney's helm.

WBD hasn't disclosed pricing for the broader streaming service or how pricing might vary between commercial-free and ad-supported tiers. HBO Max's ad-free tier currently costs $14.99 and the ad-supported tier fetches $9.99 per month. Discovery+'s ad-free tier costs $6.99 per month, or $4.99 per month with ads.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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