Throughout the week, unconfirmed reports and speculation about potentially drastic cuts at HBO Max have left viewers and subscribers panicking about the future of the streaming platform, its celebrated original shows and its plentiful back catalog.
Then came the news Tuesday that executives have axed the “Batgirl” movie ― recently filmed for a planned HBO Max-only release ― with no plans to make it available for viewing anywhere. HBO Max subscribers have also noticed some of the platform’s original movies disappearing in recent days.
All of it is a result of HBO Max’s parent company, WarnerMedia, recently completing its merger with Discovery. The company has cut programming on several of its brands, including CNN+ abruptly shutting down just weeks after launching; TBS scaling back much of its comedy programming; and HBO Max deprioritizing its kids’ and family shows, like canceling “Gordita Chronicles.”
However, various announcements Thursday suggested the future of HBO Max, which may be the best overall streaming platform in terms of the quality of its original shows, may not be as dire as feared ― at least for now.
On a company earnings call Thursday, executives announced plans to combine HBO Max with Discovery’s streaming service Discovery+, with the goal of launching the new service in the U.S. in summer 2023.
Earlier in the day, the company announced that select shows from Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network, which is part of Discovery, will become available on HBO Max starting Sept. 30. The platform will feature a special page of Magnolia Network content, including all five seasons of “Fixer Upper,” “Fixer Upper: Welcome Home,” “Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines” and “Family Dinner with Andrew Zimmern.” The shows will also still be available on Discovery+.
In a similar move, several CNN shows will also be available on Discovery+ beginning Aug. 19, including “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy,” W. Kamau Bell’s “United Shades of America” and Lisa Ling’s “This Is Life.” More CNN shows will gradually be added to Discovery+ in a special hub page, after they air on CNN.
On the earnings call, JB Perrette, the company’s head of global streaming, said this “content-sharing” will continue to be part of the company’s streaming strategy before the new combined service is ready for launch.
He also said the company is exploring different subscription and pricing levels, including a free, ad-supported level, with more details to be announced later this year.
When asked by an investor about the rumors of “gutting” HBO Max, CEO David Zaslav rejected the notion and said the company would continue to spend on HBO Max, calling it “an extraordinary asset.”