Max’s European Rollout Scheduled to Begin May 21, Ahead of 2024 Paris Olympics

Max is coming to Europe in exactly two months.

Warner Bros. Discovery March 21 announced that its flagship streaming service will launch in the first European countries May 21, a year after its U.S. debut, with more countries to be added before the Olympic Games in Paris start July 26.

The initial rollout will be across central and eastern Europe, as well as in Iberia and the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Launches will follow in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Poland.

By the time the Olympics start, Max will be available in 25 European countries. That will boost the platform’s presence to 65 countries and territories worldwide. 

The HBO Max-Discovery mashup is banking on heavy Euro-appeal thanks to the inclusion of content from Eurosport, a French group of pay television networks in Europe and parts of Asia owned by WBD through its international sports unit. WBD says Max will be the only service in Europe to stream Olympic Games Paris 2024, with the competitions included in all subscription plans.

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“Max … builds on our long heritage in Europe, bringing together an incredible breadth and depth of culture-defining entertainment from our services and networks, all in one place,” JB Perrette, CEO and president of global streaming and games at Warner Bros. Discovery, said in announcing the Max rollout at the Series Mania TV festival  in Lille, Hauts-de-France. “The unrivaled content we’ve got on Max from ‘House of the Dragon’ to Olympic Games Paris 2024 and beyond means whatever your mood or the occasion, Max has something great for everyone, every time.”
 
The launch of Max in Europe comes less than one month before the return of the hot HBO Original series “House of the Dragon,” which is scheduled to bow on Max in Europe June 17.

A sports add-on will allow European subscribers to watch major international and European sports, including the four tennis Grand Slams (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open); cycling’s three Grand Tours (Giro d’Italia, La Vuelta a España, and the Tour de France) in addition to the Tour de France Femmes; the popular car race 24 Hours of Le Mans; and every major winter sports World Championship and World Cup events.

A selection of flagship live linear networks will also be available on Max in some countries in select plans, including CNN International in France and Poland, TVN in Poland, TV Norge in Norway, and Kanal 5 in Sweden — as well as Eurosport, in all countries.

A number of different plans will be available to European subscribers, including a basic plan that will include advertising and be offered at a lower price. The basic plan will initially be available in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Romania, Poland, France and Belgium and allow users to stream content, in full HD resolution, on two devices simultaneously.

A higher-priced standard plan will also allow up to 30 downloads of available content to watch offline. A premium plan will let viewers stream content in full HD or 4K resolution on up to four devices simultaneously with Dolby Atmos sound. The premium plan allows up to 100 downloads of content for offline viewing. 

Existing HBO Max subscribers will be able to keep their current profiles and viewing history. In some cases, the HBO Max app will be automatically updated to the Max app. In other cases, when users open their HBO Max app, they will be prompted to download the new Max app.

WBD Streaming Chief: With 80% of Max Revenue in U.S., Streamer Seeks Global Footprint, Live Sports

Warner Bros. Discovery’s Max streaming service, unlike competitors Netflix and Disney+, remains a predominantly U.S.-based service with 80% of revenue generated domestically.

That is going to change in 2024 as Max, which launched two years ago, finally expands service globally after last week’s debut in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to JB Perrette, CEO, global Streaming and games at WBD.

Speaking March 4 at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco, Perrette said the streamer is attempting to play catch-up — with further international expansion slated for Europe in the second quarter and third quarters. That comes after Max lost subs on successive quarters following the melding of the HBO Max and Discovery+ platforms in the United States, to finish the year with 52 million subs.

Perrette said, with Max’s launch in foreign markets, management believes the service can be among the top three after five years. In some markets, such as India, Max will license to third-party carriers.

“We are in less than 50% of the addressable markets our bigger peers are in,” Perrette said. “We have over half the world still to go. And that includes four out of the five major European markets. All of Asia. So, globalization is probably the single biggest [goal].”

The executive contends that with the combination of the lower-priced ad-supported Max option, in addition to partnerships with Verizon for the bundle with Netflix, among other deals on the horizon, the SVOD service can also add incremental domestic subs going forward.

“The demand is there,” Perrette said.

In addition to subscribers and continued scaling of the business, Perrette said WBD is upping content spend on Max, which he said languished after the initial rollout of the service, which included the end of a pay-one movie output deal with Universal Pictures. That slot has now been filled by A24.

With the exception of Barbie, the No. 1 theatrical release of 2023, the remainder of the Warner move slate underperformed, including The Flash, The Nun II and Meg 2: The Trench. Only the Dec. 15 release of Wonka saved the year, finishing No. 2 for the studio after just 16 days of release.

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“We went to the lightest content load we’ve probably ever had,” Perrette said.

Going forward, Max is readying original series around “The Penguin” from the DC Comics universe, a “Dune”-themed series, an “It” horror series and another based on “The Conjuring” universe.

Perrette said consumer awareness of live sports on Max continues to grow slowly (about 20% penetration) after launching a Bleacher Report Sports add-on last fall. The executive said standalone streaming access to sports remains a key objective in light of the fragmentation of live sports in the United States

“It’s where aggregation is super powerful and can provide meaningful more opportunity for us and the partners, and that gave birth to our sports joint venture conversation,” he said.

Max is set to bow its strongest sports lineup this month and in April with college basketball’s March Madness tournament and the NBA playoffs.

“Overtime, as we finalize the venture, and the structure of the venture, we’ll figure out what we do with our sports offerings on Max in relation to the joint venture,” Perrette said.

WSJ: 70% of HBO Max, Discovery+ Subscribers Have Transitioned to Combined Max Service

Warner Bros. Discovery combined its HBO Max and Discovery+ subscription streaming platforms into the newly named Max service on May 23. Since that time, 70% of the respective service subs have transitioned to Max, according to JB Perrette, president of global streaming at Warner Bros. Discovery.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Perrette said the remaining 30% of subscribers remain paid customers, while a number of Discovery+ subs have canceled the service, despite the service still being offered as a standalone platform. Max content includes 20% of Discovery+ programming such as HGTV and The Magnolia Network.

“We did see an uptick in cancellations on Discovery+ very much in line with what we expected,” the executive said.

Warner Bros. Discovery is staking much of its fiscal future on Max, a strategy that coincides with the media giant licensing myriad Warner and HBO content to third-party ad-supported streaming services such as Fox Corp.’s Tubi.

HBO Max and Discovery+ ended the most-recent fiscal period (March 31) with more than 97 million combined subscribers. WBD doesn’t break out separate subscriber data among HBO, Max and Discovery+.

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.

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Perrette said all remaining subscribers would be prompted to join Max when they open their existing accounts. Regardless, WBD’s digital strategy appears to be turning the corner on profitability. The segment generated $50 million in Q1 operating income compared with a more than $650 million operating loss in the previous-year period.

Hybrid Discovery+/HBO Max Service Moves Up Launch to Spring 2023 — at a Likely Higher Price

Warner Bros. Discovery has moved up the launch of a hybrid HBO Max/Discovery+ streaming platform from summer 2023 to next spring.

Speaking during a Nov. 3 fiscal call, CEO David Zaslav said internal teams have been busy reconfiguring the separate platforms into a pending unified service that could appeal to multiple end users.

Specifically, Zaslav said streaming teams have been working on fixes to existing perceived Max shortcomings, including the lack of content recommendations at the end of a movie or show.

“An obvious way to drive further user engagement,” he said. “We are already starting rolling [recommendations] out and are already seeing promising engagement uplift.”

CEO David Zaslav

JB Perrette, CEO/president of Warner Bros. Discovery global streaming and interactive entertainment, said pricing on the new hybrid service is one of several aspects that makes management “particularly optimistic” about the services’ synergies going forward.

Indeed, Perrette said that by 2023 HBO Max would not have raised monthly prices since its launch in 2020 — a fact he says represents an opportunity in the current economic environment. In addition, he said international revenue per user is “meaningfully” lower than the market leaders.

“And for us, that spells opportunity and an ability [to raise prices] as the new product comes to market,” he said.

JB Perrette

HBO Max is currently priced at $14.99 monthly without ads, and $9.99 with advertising. Discovery+ is priced at $4.99 with ads, and $6.99 without commercials.

Separately, Zaslav said the company has already begun experimenting with bringing some Discovery+ content onto the Max platform, including select Magnolia Network shows such as “Fixer Upper: The Castle,” which he said was a top five show after only a few days on Max.

“These early [tests] bolster our strategic thesis that the two content offerings [Max and discovery+] work well together,” he said. “And when combined, should drive greater engagement, lower churn, and higher lifetime customer value.”

Warner Bros. Discovery is eyeing $1 billion in pre-tax earnings in streaming by 2023.

“I believe the grand experiment chasing subs at any cost is over,” Zaslav said. “Let’s face it, the strategy to collapse all windows, starve linear TV and theatrical, and spend money with abandon while making a fraction in return, all in the service of sub numbers, has ultimately proven, in our view, to be deeply flawed.”

Instead, the CEO believes that Warner Bros. Discovery, working internally as a single company, can do a better job determining what content people are watching, and what are they not watching.

His comments come as the company has irked some observers by removing select programs from distribution and production across Warner Bros., Turner and HBO. Indeed, Casey Bloys, newly appointed chairman/CEO of HBO and HBO Max, has been tasked with restructuring HBO, including analyzing all content on the platform. The analysis led to the departure of 37 programs from the platform and $825 million in fiscal write-downs.

“We didn’t take one show off a platform that was going to help us in any way,” Zaslav said. “It was going to help us to get [those programs] off the platform, so we could now invest in, with the knowledge of what is working, and replace those shows with content that has a chance to be more successful, have a larger audience.”

Warner Bros. Discovery to Combine Discovery+, HBO Max Streaming Services in 2023

Warner Bros. Discovery Aug. 4 officially said it plans to combine the Discovery+ and HBO Max subscription streaming platforms into a single service in the summer of 2023. The announcement by JB Perrette, CEO of global streaming and interactive, on the fiscal call did not provide details about the combined service’s name or price points.

“The combination of HBO Max and Discovery+ could not come at a better time, and both are enjoying strong momentum,” Perrette said. “We’ll have more to share close to the launch on the product side.”

Ever since Discovery announced plans to acquire operational control of WarnerMedia from AT&T for $43 billion, creating Warner Bros. Discovery, speculation has circulated how the new media company would combine the upstart Discovery+ streaming service with the established HBO and HBO Max platforms.

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Perrette said Discovery+ and HBO Max have their separate strengths and weaknesses. He said Max has a competitive movie and TV show slate, but has had performance and customer issues ever since launching. Discovery+ has had strong consumer appeal but with a more limited content offering.

“Our combined service will focus on delivering the best of both market-leading features with world-class performance,” he said.

Perrette said the primary focus for the combined rollout would be in markets where Max has already launched, given its broader international footprint. The new service would bow sequentially, starting in the United States, followed by Latin America. European markets with Max would follow in early 2024, with additional launches in Asia Pacific territories and Europe that year as well.

Perrette said the combined service is targeting 130 million global subscribers by 2025, with a plan to financially break even by 2024, including generating $1 billion in pre-tax income by 2025.

Warner Bros. Discovery ended the second quarter (ended June 30) with 92.1 million combined Discovery+, HBO and HBO Max subscribers.