WBD: Max, HBO Lost 600,000 Q4 Domestic Subs; Added 2.3 Million International Subs

Warner Bros. Discovery Feb. 23 reported a fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2023) loss of 600,000 domestic direct-to-consumer subscribers to end the year with 52 million — down from 54.6 million subs at the end of 2022.

The DTC business segment, which includes global Max, HBO and Discovery+, ended 2023 with 97.7 million total subscribers, which included the addition of 1.3 million subscribers from the acquisition of Blu TV and TNT Sports Chile. The segment ended 2022 with 96.9 million overall subs.

Revenue increased 3% to more than $2.52 billion from revenue of $2.45 billion in the previous-year period. Advertising revenue increased 51% to $186 million from $123 million last year.

Content revenue dropped 30% to $171 million from $243 million, primarily driven by the timing of third-party licensing agreements.

The DTC segment posted its first fiscal-year operating profit of $103 million from a fiscal loss of almost $1.6 billion in fiscal 2022.

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Content highlights in the quarter included the latest season of “True Detective,” starring Jodie Foster, which generated a series record of 12.5 million average viewers, according to David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery.

“We fought hard to get Max to be profitable last year,” he said on the fiscal call. “We are now committed to driving profitable top line growth. And while it’s still early innings, we feel good about the trajectory we were on and are on track to achieve our guidance of $1 billion in pre-tax earnings in 2025.”

HBO Renews Drama Series ‘True Detective’ for Fifth Season

HBO has renewed the original drama series “True Detective” for a fifth season. The fourth season, “True Detective: Night Country,” starring Jodie Foster and Kali Reis, concluded Feb. 18.

Additionally, under a new multiyear overall deal with HBO, “Night Country” show runner, writer and executive producer Issa López will create content exclusive to HBO and Max, including the next season of “True Detective.”
“Issa Lopez is that one-of-a-kind, rare talent that speaks directly to HBO’s creative spirit,” Francesca Orsi, EVP, HBO programming, head of HBO drama series and films, said in a statement. “She helmed ‘True Detective: Night Country’ from start to finish, never once faltering from her own commendable vision, and inspiring us with her resilience both on the page and behind the camera. Alongside Jodie and Kali’s impeccable performances, she’s made this installation of the franchise a massive success, we are so lucky to have her as part of our family.”
“From conception to release, ‘Night Country’ has been the most beautiful collaboration and adventure of my entire creative life,” López said in a statement. “HBO trusted my vision all the way, and the idea of bringing to life a new incarnation of True Detective with Casey, Francesca and the whole team is a dream come true. I can’t wait to go again.”
In “True Detective: Night Country,” when the long winter night falls in Ennis, Ala., the eight men who operate the Tsalal Arctic Research Station vanish without a trace. To solve the case, detectives Liz Danvers (Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Reis) will have to confront the darkness they carry in themselves, and dig into the haunted truths that lie buried under the eternal ice. The season also stars Finn Bennett, Fiona Shaw, Christopher Eccleston, Isabella Star LaBlanc and John Hawkes. Guest stars include Anna Lambe, Aka Niviâna and Joel D. Montgrand. 

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“True Detective: Night Country” is the most watched season of “True Detective,” with 12.7 million cross platform viewers, according to HBO. Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment will release the season on Blu-ray and DVD July 9.

‘True Detective: Night Country’ Due on Blu-ray and DVD July 9

Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment has slated HBO’s True Detective: Night Country for Blu-ray and DVD release July 9. The fourth season of the “True Detective” procedural anthology is already available for digital purchase and can be streamed on Max.

The six-episode season stars Jodie Foster and Kali Reis as detectives in Alaska investigating the disappearance of eight scientists. The cast also includes John Hawkes, Christopher Eccleston, Fiona Shaw, Finn Bennett, Anna Lambe, Aka Niviâna, Isabella Star Lablanc and Joel D. Montgrand.

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Extras include:

  • “Meet the True Detectives” — Cast Q&A;
  • “New Chapter” — showrunner/writer/director Issa López and the cast discuss Night Country’s unique role in the series;
  • “Exploring Indigenous Themes” — a featurette that delves into Alaska native culture and how it has informed this season;
  • Max Inkblots — get to know the cast through show-themed inkblot interpretations;
  • A featurette about how Alaska is a pivotal character in the story;
  • Atmospheric Teases — social environmental shots to tease key moments from the series.

HBO’s ‘The Sympathizer’ Limited Series Debuting on Max April 14

The seven-episode HBO original limited series “The Sympathizer” debuts April 14 (9-10 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO and will be available to stream on Max.

Park Chan-wook and Don McKellar co-showrun and executive produce. The series stars Hoa Xuande, Fred Nguyen Khan, Toan Le, Phanxine, Vy Le, Ky Duyen, Kieu Chinh, Duy Nguyen, Alan Trong, Emmy winner Sandra Oh and Academy Award nominee Robert Downey Jr., who plays multiple roles.

Based on Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, the series is an espionage thriller and cross-culture satire about the struggles of a half-French, half-Vietnamese communist spy during the final days of the Vietnam War and his new life as a refugee in Los Angeles, where he learns that his spying days aren’t over.

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‘True Detective: Night Country’ Episode Five to Hit Max Before HBO

Episode five of the HBO Original drama series “True Detective: Night Country” will be available to stream early on Max beginning Feb. 9 at 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PST in advance of its HBO linear premiere on Feb. 11 at 9 p.m. EST/PST.

The season finale will debut Feb. 18 at the same time on HBO and Max.

In the series, when the long winter night falls in Ennis, Ala., the eight men who operate the Tsalal Arctic Research Station vanish without a trace. To solve the case, detectives Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) will have to confront the darkness they carry in themselves, and dig into the haunted truths that lie buried under the eternal ice.

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The series also stars Finn Bennett, Fiona Shaw, Christopher Eccleston, Isabella Star LaBlanc and John Hawkes with guest stars Anna Lambe, Aka Niviâna and Joel D. Montgrand.

‘Sex and the City’ Reportedly Coming to Netflix

All six seasons (96 episodes) of critically acclaimed HBO romance drama “Sex and the City” are reportedly set to begin streaming on Netflix in April. The move, first reported by The New York Times, marks another trend among media companies licensing legacy content to third-party streamers for incremental revenue and increased cross-platform viewership.

Since the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery into Warner Bros. Discovery, CEO David Zaslav has made no secret his desire to license proprietary programming he says is underutilized on the Max streaming platform. While naysayers question the strategy, the results would seem to bear fruit.

Past seasons of “Young Sheldon” concurrently streaming on Netflix and Max topped Nielsen’s most-recent weekly “Acquired Content” Top 10 with more than 1.4 billion minutes consumed. Catalog episodes of Paramount+ shows “NCIS,” “SpongeBob Squarepants,” and “School Spirits,” along with Peacock’s “Suits,” all concurrently streaming on Netflix, rank among the most popular programming streamed across household TVs, according to Nielsen.

Netflix, with more than 260 million global subscribers and deep pockets to license programming, has become a coveted platform for third-party content. Indeed, the streamer topped all competitors 48 weeks out of 52 weeks in 2023, according to Nielsen.

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has questioned why media companies wouldn’t license their programming to the world’s largest subscription streaming platform — which just added a record 13.1 million subscribers in the most-recent fiscal period.

“I think licensing to us has the added benefit of enhancing the value of [everyone’s] IP on top of the revenue stream,” Sarandos said at an investor event last December. “Look, it’s a very competitive business, and folks don’t want the shows that didn’t work on their network to work somewhere else. [But] the opportunity for something to get a second life and work is — the payback is enormous.”

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Max Bows ‘The Sopranos’ 25th Anniversary Streaming Special

The Max streaming service Jan. 8 launched “The Sopranos: 25th Anniversary Collection,” which includes 15 deleted scenes, three of which have never been released. It also includes more than five hours of behind-the-scenes featurette content. Every season of the award-winning series is currently available to stream on Max.

Jan. 10 is the official 25th anniversary date of “The Sopranos” debut on HBO in 1999 and starring the late James Gandolfini, who won three Emmy Awards, five Screen Actors Guild Awards, and one Golden Globe Award playing Tony Soprano, the Italian-American Mafia crime boss.

To commemorate the anniversary, Max is hosting a special invitation-only cast reunion, a partnership with Postmates for an official “Satriale’s” pop-up restaurant in New York and Los Angeles, and fan screenings at Alamo Drafthouse with “Sopranos” actress Sharon Angela hosting the L.A. screening with “Sopranos”-themed concessions, trivia sessions, photo opportunities, and swag giveaways on Jan. 10.

From Jan. 11 through Feb. 4 at Da Nico, a renowned Italian restaurant in New York City, guests can order from a special menu featuring “Sopranos”-inspired dishes, such as Carmela’s Baked Ziti and Satriale’s Special Caprese.

On Jan. 10, fans of the series in New York and Los Angeles can visit the official Satriale’s pop-up, bringing an authentic “Sopranos”-inspired Italian sandwich from Ggiata in LA and Regina’s in NYC, to their door, available exclusively through the delivery app Postmates.

Episodes of the series will be available to sample through select cable partner’s free on-demand platforms. Episodes one and two from season one will also be accessible on Max’s YouTube channel. Additionally, @TheSopranos will launch on TikTok, where fans can relive each episode in 25 seconds.

Max is partnering with Robert Iler and Jamie-Lynn Sigler for a special edition of their podcast “Not Today, Pal.” They will reminisce about their roles as Meadow and AJ on the series, and answer questions from fans. The full episode will be available on Jan. 18 via the HBO YouTube channel and all major podcast platforms.

The festivities continue when the HBO Shop and New York ‘Escapewear’ brand Tombolo, partner to offer various special-edition products for the 25th anniversary. Select merchandise is now available with new items being introduced throughout 2024.

“‘The Sopranos’ left an indelible imprint on the global entertainment culture and was instrumental in defining HBO as the destination for groundbreaking, award-winning programming,” Zach Enterlin, EVP, brand, content & creative, streaming marketing, HBO and Max, said in a statement. “The many ways we will honor this 25-year milestone will allow fans to celebrate the Soprano legacy and pay tribute to the characters that have had such an enduring impact.”

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Doc ‘Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero’ Debuts on Max , HBO Jan. 27

The HBO original documentary Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero debuts Jan. 27 on HBO and will be available to stream on Max.

Produced by RadicalMedia and directed by Carlos López Estrada and Zac Manuel, Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero captures music star Lil Nas X, the Grammy award-winning rapper, singer, and songwriter, as he prepares for and embarks on his first-ever headlining U.S. tour. The film follows the genre-breaking artist on a personal journey of self-investigation and discovery as he creates, rehearses and performs nightly in front of his fans.

Spanning 60 days of the “Long Live Montero” tour in 2022/2023, the verité-style film delves beneath the surface of Lil Nas X, a boy from Atlanta born Montero Hill, whose musical career exploded with his 2019 crossover hit “Old Town Road.” Mirroring the stage show, the film is divided into three acts — “Rebirth,” “Transformation” and “Becoming” — and chronicles Montero’s own odyssey as he navigates the pressures of his meteoric rise to stardom, his desire to inspire his fans and accept the naysayers, and his place within the pantheon of Black, queer icons.

Montero’s elaborate stage show transports the audience through the highs and lows of his life via his deeply personal music, while behind the scenes, the film reveals a sensitive young man still exploring his own queer identity, complicated relationships with family members, and his aspirations as a force for self-expression and acceptance.

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Other featured participants are show producer Saul Levitz, manager Adam Leber, creative director/stylist Hodo Musa, lead choreographer/show director Sean Bankhead, choreography assistant Christian Owens, horse designer Margot Rada, tour videographer Aaron Idelson, nephew Chase White, brothers Lamarco Hill, Robert Sleepy, Tramon Hill, stepmother Mia Stafford, father Robert Stafford, dancers Dobbin Pinkney, Zachariah Molton, Kebahb Glanville, Amari Smith, Devin Neal, Bernard Bell, Alex Mateo, Trevon Anderson, guest artist Saucy Santana, and head of security Leula “JR” Kailahi.

HBO’s ‘The Gilded Age’ Renewed for a Third Season

The HBO original drama series “The Gilded Age,” from creator Julian Fellowes (“Downton Abbey”), has been renewed for a third season.  The season two finale aired Dec. 17 and all episodes are available to stream on Max.
Total premiere-night viewing for the second season grew for six consecutive weeks, culminating in a series high for the season two finale, according to HBO.
“We’re so proud of what Julian Fellowes and ‘The Gilded Age’ family have achieved,” Francesca Orsi, EVP of HBO programming and head of HBO Drama series and films, said in a statement. “From the costumes to the production design and performances, the show has captivated so many week after week. Along with our partners at Universal Television, we are thrilled to continue this grand tale for a third season.”
“There is much more story to tell with ‘The Gilded Age,'” Erin Underhill, president of Universal Television, said in a statement. “We’re delighted that HBO is giving fans another season of Julian Fellowes’ incredible storytelling. The cast and crew put so much of their heart and soul into the last two seasons, and we’re so proud that all this hard work is paying off with another season … you won’t want to miss what’s next!”
Season two of the series begins on Easter morning 1883, with the news that Bertha Russell’s bid for a box at the Academy of Music has been rejected. Through the eight episodes of the season, we watch as Bertha challenges Mrs. Astor and the old system and works to not only gain a foothold in Society, but to potentially take a leading role in it. George Russell takes on his own battle with a growing union at his steel plant in Pittsburgh. In the Brook House, Marian continues her journey to find her way in the world secretly teaching at a girls school while much to everyone’s surprise Ada begins a new courtship. Of course, Agnes approves of none of it. In Brooklyn, the Scott family begins to heal from a shocking discovery, and Peggy taps into her activist spirit through her work with T. Thomas Fortune at the NY Globe. 

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The season two cast includes Carrie Coon, Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon, Morgan Spector, Louisa Jacobson, Denée Benton, Ben Ahlers, Michael Cerveris, Kelley Curran, Taissa Farmiga, Jack Gilpin, Simon Jones, Sullivan Jones, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Debra Monk, Donna Murphy, Kristine Nielsen, Kelli O’Hara, Patrick Page, Harry Richardson, Taylor Richardson, Blake Ritson, Douglas Sills, Erin Wilhelmi, Nathan Lane, Audra McDonald, John Douglas Thompson, Ashlie Atkinson, Laura Benanti, Nicole Brydon Bloom, Christopher Denham, David Furr, Ward Horton, Matilda Lawler and Robert Sean Leonard. 

HBO Limited Series ‘The Regime,’ With Kate Winslet, to Start Streaming on Max in March

The six-episode HBO Original limited series “The Regime” starring Kate Winslet will start streaming on Max in March after its HBO debut on March 3.

“The Regime” tells the story of one year within the walls of the palace of a modern European regime as it begins to unravel. The series was written by Will Tracy and directed by Stephen Frears and Jessica Hobbs.

In addition to Winslet, best known for her starring role in Titanic, the series cast includes Matthias Schoenaerts, Guillaume Gallienne, Andrea Riseborough, Martha Plimpton and Hugh Grant.