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nScreenNoise – Max launch the long goodbye for Discovery+nScreenMedia

WB Discovery released the final details of Max before its release next week. The company wants Discovery+ subscribers to upgrade and brands to embrace the service. Will they all come?

In WB Discovery’s UpFront presentation, the company revealed the final details of the combined Discovery+/HBO Max service before its launch on May 23rd in the US. There was something for everyone in Max except for Discovery+ subscribers. In today’s podcast, we will look at how Max stacks up against the competition and as an ad vehicle for brands. We’ll also dig into why, even though Discovery+ will still be available when Max launches, it looks like the service is facing a long goodbye. But first…

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What we know about Max (2:00)

There are three tiers of service:

  • Max Ad-lite plan is $9.99 monthly ($99.99 a year.) Two concurrent HD streams, no offline downloads, 5.1 surround.
  • Max Ad Free is $15.99 monthly ($149.99 a year.) Two concurrent HD streams, 30 offline downloads, 5.1 surround.
  • Max Ultimate Ad Free for $19.99 monthly ($199.99 a year.) Four concurrent streams, 4K Ultra HD resolution, 100 offline downloads, and Dolby Atmos sound quality.

The company also gave us an idea of the user experience for subscribers. It says everything currently on Discovery+ and HBO Max will be available on Max. However, it is throwing a couple of surprises:

  • The ad load will be 3 to 4 minutes per hour for all content
  • All new shows that air on their networks will be available on Max the same night

How competitive will the content library be? (4:10)

WB Discovery is going to the bother of creating Max because it wants everyone in the US to want it. So, how does it stack up against the other top providers? I want to thank streaming TV aggregator Reelgood for its data on how much content is available in each service. And I’ll include graphs of this data in the posting of this podcast on the nScreenMedia website.

Discovery+ contributes little beyond what HBO Max already has when looking at movies:Number of movie titles in top US SVODs

  • Discovery+ adds only 400 movie titles, of which two are ranked high quality by IMDb
  • Max is behind Netflix and Peacock for the total number of titles
  • Max has the most high-quality titles.

However, Discovery+ kills it in TV titles:

  • Discovery+ has the fourth most number of titles, and HBO Max is seventh
  • But Max has more titles than our previous number 1, Netflix.
  • However, when looking at high-quality shows, Max is about tied with Hulu and behind DisneyDuo and Netflix.

Number of TV titles in top US SVODsAt least from the content library perspective, Max stacks up very well against Disney Duo and Netflix. But it’s not just about the raw library size. Content flow is key, and it has been cutting back on its content spend with a passion as it tries to cope with a $45B debt load. However, the company hopes the latest Discovery TV episodes will be enough to fill the gap.

WB Discovery wants Max to kill Discovery+ (8:30)

The way WB Discovery is positioning Max, it is apparent the company wants to move as many people from Discovery+ to Max as possible. There are two big incentives.

The ad load in Max is much lower than in Discovery+. Discovery+ runs over 10 minutes of ads per hour, which is almost at regular TV loads. However, subscribers can watch the same content in Max while seeing only 3-4 minutes per hour. But the biggest incentive is the ability to watch first-run Discovery content from cable and broadcast channels the evening it airs. Discovery+ subscribers must wait until the end of the season for the more recent shows to appear in the service.

These benefits don’t come for free. Discovery+ subscribers will need to pay twice what they are paying now to get the benefit of Max: to watch with ads, $9.99 monthly versus $4.99 with D+, to watch without ads, $15.99 versus $6.99, or $8 more each month.

How many will make the change? The ability to watch the most recent episodes will be a clincher for many. And Max’s inclusion of the latest Discovery episodes could be the nudge many D+ subs need to finally cut the cord.

Ad innovation for brands (12:20)

Brands will find opportunities to reach Max users in new ways. Of course, the standard pre, mid-roll, and pause ads will be supported. But the service is adding new formats, including:

  • Brand blocks – a single brand buys all the ads in a show
  • Takeovers – a brand’s ads are the first seen by users in a single day
  • In-front – a brand can sponsor ad-free viewing after its ads are seen in pre-roll.

Interactive ads will also be supported in the form of:

  • One-click reveal – on scrolling, a viewer sees a surprise message, promotion, or trivia question
  • Carousel – which shows multiple products
  • Extendable – a user can open a product hub
  • Locator – identify nearby merchants that have a featured product.

And WB Discovery is starting an in-house programmatic and direct deal-making platform. It will let brands buy inventory for almost all the company’s apps and networks. These include Bleacher Report, Food Network, TNT, Animal Planet, ID, and HGTV. The company says the programmatic marketplace can reach across mobile, desktop, and connected TV reaching 110 million users a month. However, WBD stream does not sell inventory for Max and Discovery+, and advertising for the company’s two flagship direct-to-consumer services will be sold separately.

As usual, you can find a rough podcast transcript at and see diagrams that make the data I discussed today slightly clearer.

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