WBD to retain Discovery+ as solo service in US after combi-streamer launch

Gold Rush

Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) is to retain Discovery+ as a solo streamer after the launch of its upcoming SVOD, which will carry content from both that service and HBO Max.

Discovery+ will remain active in the US even after the combined service – which is as-yet unnamed but speculated to be Max – first rolls out in the US and Latin America later this year.

The combined streamer is to launch in Europe and Asia in 2024, though TBI understands that plans for Discovery+ in EMEA are being assessed by WBD on a market-by-market basis, with it to remain in countries covered by the media giant’s output deal with Sky, including the UK, Germany and Italy.

WBD told TBI thats its plan for its new “enhanced platform” remains unchanged and said: “We have decided to keep the lower-priced offering of Discovery+ in the US marketplace. We are currently working through plans for Discovery+ in EMEA.”

This tallies with the report in The Wall Street Journal, which first covered news of this shift in streaming strategy, and said that WBD’s decision to keep Discovery+ as a solo service was made due to concerns that its subscribers would not pay a higher price for a combined service.

In the US, HBO Max costs $16 per month, or $10 for its ad-supported tier, while Discovery+ is at the lower price of $7 and $5 respectively. At last count, made pre-merger, Discovery+ had more than 22 million global subscribers, while the HBO brand boasted upward of 73 million. In September, WBD reported 94.9 million total direct-to-consumer subscribers and aims to hit 130 million by 2025.

Plans to combine the two streamers were first announced by Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels in March 2022, following the completion of Discovery’s $43bn acquisition of WarnerMedia. The merger handed WBD a library of more than 200,000 hours of films and series, ranging from the unscripted giant’s shows such as Gold Rush and Deadliest Catch, to WarnerMedia’s Friends and Succession.

WBD has been rapidly shifting its activites on all fronts over recent months as Wall Street looks for profits from streaming rather than subscriber additions, leading to a return to third-party distribution and huge cuts to original content plans.

This included HBO Max’s regional programming investments around the world, particularly in Europe where HBO Max has axed its local teams. WBD now commissions European originals and acquires through regional teams for both streaming and TV channels, rather than exclusively for HBO Max.

WBD has also started moving into FAST, recently launching branded channels for series including the recently cancelled Westworld via ad-supported platforms The Roku Channel and Fox-owned Tubi.

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