Exclusive: WBD plans combined streamer for France, as HBO Max roll-out ends


Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) is to launch its new combined streaming service in France, with the media giant confirming to TBI that its global roll-out of HBO Max has ended.

There is no launch date for the as-yet-unnamed streamer, which will combine thousands of hours of HBO Max and Discovery+ content, although HBO Max had been expected to launch in France in 2023.

TBI has also learned that previously announced plans, made before the $43bn merger and subsequent change in management, to launch HBO Max in Iceland, Turkey, Greece and the Baltics have also been scrapped, though it is not yet confirmed whether those countries will receive the new combined streamer.

Reshaping French focus

France is a key European territory for global streamers and WBD has made a flurry of recent hires in the country, including former Canal+ exec Vera Pelketian and Arte France’s Clémentine Bobin, brought on ostensibly to develop and produce French originals for HBO Max.

While it is not confirmed whether those execs will now work on content for the combined service, original French programming efforts are to continue in France.

WBD confirmed to TBI that the HBO Max launches in Europe this March were the last, pointing to the company’s latest earnings call in which CEO and president David Zaslav stated: “We will not launch any new markets for the time being. We will not sort of chase aggressively behind subscriber growth as long as we are working on this priority one, which is getting these products together.”

Contrasting strategies

The roll-out of Discovery+, however, which launched in Germany and Austria last week, is expected to continue, with different strategies for the two separate services before they are eventually merged.

In a statement to TBI, the media giant said: “Warner Bros. Discovery has publicly stated its commitment to a singular streaming service that combines HBO Max and Discovery+ and harnesses the unmatched combined content of the organization.

“We continue to develop our plans to roll out a high-quality global service both in territories where we have a presence in streaming, as well as in new markets. France remains a strategically important market, and we will confirm the timing of a launch in due course.”

Confirmation of the French launch comes on the heels of Warner Bros. Discovery halting the development of local original productions for HBO Max in the Nordics, Central Europe, the Netherlands and Turkey. The company said that original programming efforts in France and Spain would not be affected.

Certain European and US shows are also being removed from HBO Max globally, including Hungarian drama The Informant, Swedish comedy Lust and Denmark’s Kamikaze.

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