HBO Original Documentary ‘Daniel’ Debuts Dec. 20

The HBO original documentary Daniel, directed by first-time filmmaker Daniel Northcott, will debut Dec. 20 on HBO and will be available to stream on Max.

When Northcott got a hold of his father’s video camera at the age of seven, a lifetime of documenting the world around him began. Growing up, he focused his lens on his family and close friends, and as a young man, he recorded precious moments with the people and places he encountered on his travels, striving to live a life of love and seek out universal human connection.

On a mission to pursue an epic adventure, Daniel visits war zones to sacred sites, including a Mayan burial ground in a cave in Mexico. He would often take a keepsake from each location as a reminder of his connection to the earth.

But Daniel’s world travels abruptly end when he must return home to Vancouver because of health reasons. While undergoing treatment, he is haunted by the memory of an ancient Mayan curse and goes on a quest to put things back where they belong before he runs out of time. Crafted from over 1,400 hours of vérité-style footage shot in 42 countries across four continents, Daniel is an unflinching self-portrait of a young man with an insatiable curiosity and a boundless desire to understand the world and his place in it.

The film includes intimate moments with Daniel, his friends and family, including his beloved older sister Erin who finished the film in his honor.

Warner Bros. Discovery Drops 1.8 Million Q2 Subs With Combined HBO Max, Discovery+ Platform

Warner Bros. Discovery  Aug. 3 reported it lost 1.8 million direct-to-consumer paid subscribers in the the second quarter, ended June 30, after combining the HBO Max and Discovery+ subscription streaming services into the Max platform. The DTC business segment ended the period with 95.8 million global subs, compared with 97.6 million subs during the first quarter, ended March 31. Subscribers increased year-over-year by 3.6 million from 92.2 million.

WBD had predicted a sub loss combining the HBO Max and Discovery+ services, with a number of Discovery+ subs — more interested in HGTV and DIY programming than movies — not coming onboard the new platform.

The DTC segment posted an operating loss of $3 million on revenue of more than $2.73 billion, which was up 14% from $2.41 billion in the previous-year period — driven in part by the licensing of Max content to third-party SVOD services such as Netflix and Prime Video. Average revenue per user (ARPU) increased to $7.71 from $7.58 per user a year ago, and $7.48 in Q1. Through the first half of the year, DTC operating income was around $47 million.

Regardless of the mixed results, CEO David Zaslav expressed optimism on the overall DTC performance and bottom line.

“The migration to Max has gone exceedingly well, with the overwhelming number of subscribers in the U.S. successfully transferred,” Zaslav said on the fiscal call, adding that subscriber churn is lower than expected.

“The consumer experience is top-notch. The amount of time spent is showing encouraging signs of stronger engagement,” he said, adding that Max has the ability now to deliver live streaming programming, i.e. sports.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Zaslav said going forward subscriber churn among Discovery+ subs would continue, but would be offset by growing consumer interest in the combined Max service on the Amazon Prime Channels platform.

“The licensing of content to other SVOD platforms, like Netflix or Prime Video, is part of co-exclusive agreement,” he said. “It’s just smart business. We’re expanding our audience while maximizing the value of the assets and providing more revenue streams. And that is our job: to optimize the windowing and get the best possible return on investment.”

Warner Bros. Discovery Initiates First European HBO Max Subscription Price Hike

Warner Bros. Discovery’s Max subscription streaming platform has initiated price hikes for the first time across select European markets where the service retains the moniker “HBO Max” until 2024.

Price hikes include an additional monthly euro fee to €9.99 ($10.85) in Spain, and €7.99 ($8.67) in Portugal. Across the Nordics, the monthly fee is increasing to 99 NOK ($9.38) in Norway; 99 SEK ($9.29) in Sweden; 89 DKK ($12.97) in Denmark; and €9.99 ($10.85) in Finland. Bulgaria is increasing to €6.99 ($7.59).

By comparison, Netflix charges €12.99 ($14.10) monthly for a standard subscription in Spain, and €7.99 ($8.67) for the basic option.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

HBO Max is currently available in about 61 countries, with a Latin American launch slated for the end of the year, in addition to most of Western Europe and South Asia in 2024.

Reelgood: Max Boasts More Than Twice the Catalog Hours of HBO Max

Max boasts more than twice the catalog hours of content of predecessor HBO Max, according to Reelgood, a streaming TV guide.

Max, which added content from Discovery+, includes 38,163 catalog hours of content while HBO Max had hosted 18,307 catalog hours. 

Since the transition to Max on May 23, 70% of the service subs (of HBO Max and Discovery+) have transitioned to Max, said J.B. Perrette, president of global streaming at Warner Bros. Discovery,  in a June interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Max’s subscription tiers include a $9.99 monthly “Max Ad Lite” option, a $15.99 monthly “Max Ad Free” tier and a $19.99 “Ultimate Ad Free” option. The standalone Discovery+ option is priced at $7.99 with commercials.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

 

Reelgood: Max Has Nearly Double the TV Shows of HBO Max

Max has nearly double the number of TV shows on its service than did predecessor HBO Max, according to Reelgood.

The service, which added content from Discovery+, boasts 88% more shows than HBO Max.

Max has slightly fewer movies than HBO Max, but it more than doubled its episodes, increasing them by more than 130%.

Despited the addition of TV content, the movie catalog on Max is twice the size of the TV show catalog.

Max offers a collection of 2,264 movies, with 96% of them being previously available on HBO Max. The remaining 4% comprises content shared between Discovery+ and new additions exclusive to Max.

Max features 1,208 TV shows, of which 55% were previously available on Discovery+, 42% on HBO Max. The remaining shows are new additions exclusive to Max.

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO Zaslav: We Had Fiscal Bleeders in HBO Max, Motion Pictures

When media executive David Zaslav last year took over operational control of the former WarnerMedia as CEO of the upstart Warner Bros. Discovery, he says he found himself with two high-profile money losing operations: streaming service HBO Max and the motion picture group, which includes Warner Bros. Pictures.

Speaking May 18 at the MoffettNathanson’s Inaugural Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference in New York, Zaslav said he was perplexed how a household pay-TV brand such as HBO could go from generating $2.5 billion operating profit from 2015 to 2019, to losing hundreds of millions of dollars.

Zaslav said management also assumed that the streaming services would have another 100 million to 150 million subscribers, and that the biggest challenge would figuring out what to do with upwards of 40% of the “greatest IP in the world.”

In reality, the streaming subscriber base is a fraction of that when excluding HBO pay-TV subscribers.

“It’s hard to run a company successfully when you have a real bleeder, when you have a business that’s losing money and you don’t have your hands around it,” Zaslav said.

The motion picture business went from making money for 25 years for Warner Bros. to “losing lots of money,” he said.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Fast-forward to the present and the executive said Max generated $50 million in operating income in the first quarter, with the direct-to-consumer business segment set to be profitable a year ahead of schedule. HBO Max will formally change its platform name to Max on May 23.

“Now, we have a DTC business that’s making money,” Zaslav said, adding that to turn around the business, the strategy of releasing original movies on Max had to be stopped. The move to streaming first began in 2021 during the pandemic when shuttered theaters resulted in Warner Bros. releasing its entire theatrical slate concurrently on Max.

“It didn’t reduce [subscriber] churn, didn’t increase subscribers, [and] it also reduced the quality of the product,” Zaslav said. “The quality of the movies done [exclusively for Max] were really not that good. And we’ve would out of that now.”

The highest-profile Max exclusive movie casualty was Warner’s surprising decision to write off its $90 million Batgirl feature, starring Leslie Grace in the title role, with Michael Keaton reprising his Batman role.

“The decision to not release Batgirl reflects our leadership’s strategic shift as it relates to the DC universe and HBO Max,” WBD said in a media statement at the time.

In addition to that controversial move, Zaslav hired James Gunn and Peter Safran as co-CEOs of the revamped DC Comics business unit to help the venerable superhero brand try and emulate the theatrical success of rival Marvel Studios at Disney.

Gunn, who has penned a new “Superman” script, wrote and directed Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which is currently in theaters.

Zaslav has high hopes for upcoming theatrical releases The Flash, Barbie, Meg 2: The Trench, Blue Beetle, The Nun 2, Dune: Part 2, Wonka and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. 

The April release of Evil Dead Rise, another scratched Max movie exclusive, which moved to theatrical, has paid off, generating more than $132 million at the global box office thus far.

“I think we’ve made the turn,” Zaslav said. “All of our businesses are making money, with the exception of the motion picture business, but I think we are making that turn now. That’s a big deal.”

HBO/HBO Max, Discovery+ Add 1.5 Million Collective Q1 Subs to Tally 97.6 Million Overall, Post Operating Profit

Warner Bros. Discovery May 5 disclosed that its direct-to-consumer video business added 1.5 million subscribers in the first quarter (ended March 31), to end the period with 97.6 million — up from 90.6 million in the prior-year period. The business segment includes HBO Max, HBO and Discovery+ platforms.

More importantly, the DTC segment, which ended the quarter with 55.3 million domestic subscribers and 42.3 million international subs, posted pre-tax operating income of $50 million on revenue of $2.45 billion, compared to an operating loss of $654 million in the prior-year period.

Speaking on the fiscal call, CEO David Zaslav said the DTC business would be profitable this year, including reaching $1 billion in profit by 2025.

“The key here is our streaming business is no longer a bleeder,” Zaslav said. “It’s hard to run a business when you have a big bleeder.”

With HBO Max and Discovery+ changing their streaming brand name to Max on May 23, the new service will offer three pricing options, including an ad-supported tier (Max Ad Lite) priced at $9.99; a $15.99 Max Ad Free option, and a $19.99 Ultimate Ad Free tier — the latter affording more simultaneous viewers.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“As we launch Max, we’ll be able to nourish and delight subscribers with the greatness of HBO, which on Sunday nights is really a cultural moment, whether it’s ‘White Lotus,’ ‘House of the Dragon,’ ‘The Last of Us,’ ‘Succession,’ and then put it together with Discovery content, which has been really strong for us,” Zaslav said.

The company also disclosed that it expects to lose a significant number of Discovery’s 4 million subscribers following the brand transition — despite continuing a standalone Discovery+ option.

“The exact cadence of course being unclear at this time, but we do expect a fair amount of it to happen in the first few months after launch,” said CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels.

Warner Bros. Discovery Inks Exclusive Content Distribution Deal With Canada’s Bell Media

Warner Bros. Discovery and Canada’s Bell Media May 2 announced a long-term and exclusive licensing agreement that makes Bell’s subsidiary Crave the home of programming from the studio for years to come.

The agreement also feeds CTV, CTV.ca, the CTV app, and Bell Media’s suite of specialty channels. The deal ranges across many parts of Warner Bros. Discovery’s portfolio, including HBO and Max Originals; the DC universe; the Wizarding World of Harry Potter; new cable series; library television series; pay and post-pay window rights for Warner Bros.  films; and library films.

The deal also includes French-language rights for HBO and Max Originals, Pay 1 films, the “Friends” franchise, the “Harry Potter” collection of films, and other select content.

“[This is] a true landmark deal for the Canadian media industry,” Karine Moses, SVP of content development and news, and vice chair for Québec for Bell, said in a statement.

The distribution deal continues WBD CEO David Zaslav’s goal of expanding content distribution beyond streaming video.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“This new multi-year deal will ensure Canadians have full and easy access to our shows and movies and the new programming coming from HBO and Max,” said David Decker, president of content Sales at Warner Bros. Discovery.

New Max Original programming comes to Crave, expanding on the licensing agreement announced in 2019. This includes the recently announced “Harry Potter” series, and titles from the DC Universe, including the recently announced drama “The Penguin” starring Colin Farrell.

Crave remains the exclusive Canadian home of new, current, and library HBO programming, including recently announced “Game of Thrones” prequel “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Night,” drama series “The Sympathizer,” “True Detective: Night Country,” and “The Regime,” and returning series, including “The Last of Us,” “House of the Dragon” and “The White Lotus,” among others.

The deal includes Warner Bros. library series such as “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory” for Crave, CTV.ca, and the CTV app.

Movies coming to Crave and CTV following their theatrical and home entertainment windows include The Flash, Dune: Part Two, Magic Mike’s Last Dance, and Shazam! Fury of the Gods. Library titles include “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the “Harry Potter” collection, Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy, Goodfellas, The Shining, The Departed and Inception, among others.

Doc ‘1000% Me: Growing Up Mixed’ Debuts on HBO, HBO Max May 2

The HBO original documentary film 1000% Me: Growing Up Mixed, directed by W. Kamau Bell (“United Shades of America”), debuts May 2 on HBO and HBO Max. 
 
Through a series of conversations, Emmy-winning producer, director, host and comedian W. Kamau Bell explores the experiences of mixed kids and families in the San Francisco Bay Area. The film was inspired by Kamau and his wife Melissa’s desire to better understand what life is like for their mixed daughters, who are navigating issues of identity in a world that often asks them to pick a side. The film reveals the joys and complexities of growing up mixed in today’s America. 

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“As a father of three mixed daughters, directing this film was a deeply personal and profound journey of discovery,” Bell said in a statement. “I wanted to create something lyrical and playful in a way that we don’t normally associate with these conversations but is often the way they happen in my home. My hope is in sharing the stories of these dynamic young people, it will give audiences a window into their worlds and open the door for further dialogue around race, culture, and identity. We all know that this entire country needs it.”

Max, Just Max: HBO Max-Discovery+ Mashup Details Announced

The much-ballyhooed mashup of HBO Max and Discovery+ will be simply called “Max” and will launch May 23 with the tagline “The One to Watch,” Warner Bros. Discovery announced April 12 in a press event.

Discovery+ will still be available as a standalone service.

The union of the two subscription streaming services has been in the works ever since the merger last year of WarnerMedia with Discovery. The new Max SVOD service will feature HBO Max’s high-profile series such as “The Last of Us” and “White Lotus” as well as Discovery+ content such as “Barefoot Contessa” and “Property Brothers.”

“What an exciting day for us,” said Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, speaking from WBD’s Burbank, Calif., headquarters. “This is our time, our change, and everything is possible I feel, for our company. This is our rendezvous with destiny.”

He repeated the tagline several times, noting it comes from the company’s belief that “we have so many of the world’s iconic and recognized franchises … it is our super power.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Casey Bloys, chairman and CEO of HBO and HBO Max Content, promised a wealth of new shows, including a Batman offshoot series from Matt Reeves called “The Penguin,” starring Colin Farrell; “Welcome to Derry,” set in the community where Stephen King’s It took place; a new series derived from “The Big Bang Theory”; “The Devil Made Me Do It,” a series based on “The Conjuring” horror movie franchise;  and another Max Originals series called “How to Be a Bookie,” about a struggling bookie looking to survive amid the legalization of sports gambling.

Bloys also shared first looks at DC’s upcoming The Flash movie, which will launch on Max immediately after its theatrical run; a docuseries based on Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Sean Hayes’ “Smartless” podcast series; and a Magnolia Network project called “Fixer Upper: The Hotel.”

In addition, Max has ordered an original “Harry Potter” scripted television series. The series will be a faithful adaptation of the “Harry Potter” book series by author and executive producer J.K. Rowling. 

J.B. Perrette, president and CEO of global streaming and games for WBD, said the proliferation of streaming has led consumers into “the era of peak confusion, and it’s exactly that: Consumers are overloaded. So in this era of peak confusion, we are trying to simplify and focus on quality, not just quantity.”

He said the HBO name is being taken off the streaming service to protect the brand’s identity and not “push it to the breaking point” by putting too broad an offering of content under its name.

The new Max service will offer multiple subscription tiers, including a $15.99-a-month ad-free plan, the same price as an existing ad-free HBO Max subscription. An “ad-lite” plan costs $9.99 a month. Both plans offer content in HD and two concurrent streams, with the ad-free plan also allowing for 30 downloads a month for offline viewing

Also available will be a $19.99 “ultimate” plan, with some content in 4K UHD, up to four concurrent streams, and 100 monthly downloads.

Perrette noted that the new Max service will feature various improvements centered around four key objectives: to drive more engagement, to enhance subscriber retention and reduce churn, to improve performance; and to optimized monetization.

These improvements include personalized recommendations and enhanced content discovery; adding PayPal as a payment option; simplifying the sign-in process and improving the app performance to be 20% to 30% faster; and developing dynamic tools to optimize monetization, details of which will be revealed at the company’s upfronts in May.

On May 23, he said, the HBO Max app will be automatically updated to the new Max app for most users. On some platforms, users will be prompted to download the new app. He promised that passwords and watch histories will remain intact, and that there will be a “seamless” billing transition.