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Home » WB Discovery Max solution for “peak confusion?”nScreenMedia

WB Discovery Max solution for “peak confusion?”nScreenMedia

WB Discovery Max – the combination of HBO Max and Discovery – is being pitched as the answer to the era of confusion. What will it do that HBO Max did not, and will it deliver a bigger payoff?

WB Discovery confirmed the rumors that the name of the combined HBO Max/Discovery+ product will be Max. They also provided many other details about the service. And I’ll be going over what those changes are and might mean to the company in today’s podcast. But first…

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The ethos of Max (1:45)

Max LogoJ.B. Perrette, president and CEO of global streaming and games, characterized consumers’ situation and the principal opportunity for Max as the “era of peak confusion.” He summed up the approach WB Discovery is taking with Max:

“So, in this era of peak confusion, we are trying to simplify and focus on quality, not just quantity.”

The tagline for the service is “The one to watch.” So, what does the approach mean in practice?

  • A much broader set of content providing something for everyone
  • An optimized user experience

A broader set of content (3:00)

Casey Bloys - HBO Chairman and CEO

Casey Bloys – HBO Chairman and CEO

Casey Bloys, HBO’s Chairman and CEO, says there will be plenty to watch in Max when it launches on May 23rd: He says the service is:

“Allowing us to entertain Max subscribers with an average of 40 new titles and seasons monthly.”

And they are raiding Discovery+ to do it. He said that originals heretofore targeted for Discovery+ will now become Max originals. Mr. Bloys singled out Magnolia Network’s Chip and Joanna Gains, stalwarts of the Discovery empire. He said they would create a show called Fixer Upper: The Hotel for Max. Other Discovery+ stars like the Property Brothers, Bobby Flay, and the Barefoot Contessa will be there too. It sounds like all other lifestyle and reality stars will be on Max too.

It makes you wonder what will be left for Discovery+ subscribers. Perhaps the plan is to keep it going for a while but ultimately to push everyone onto Max, as the company previously planned to do.

HBO will also continue to provide a raft of shows. Mr. Bloys talked about three new shows: a Batman spinoff called The Penguin, spinoffs from Stephen King’s It, The Big Bang Theory, and The Conjuring. And a new Game of Thrones series called A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

Optimize the user experience (7:20)

JD Perrette - Head of Streaming WB Discovery

JD Perrette – Head of Streaming WB Discovery

Mr. Perrette started by highlighting the shortcomings of HBO Max and how amazing Discovery+ is in yet a belated swipe at Jason Kilar, the former head of HBO:

“On HBO Max, three-quarters of the viewership comes from the home screen only. By comparison, on Discovery+, the majority of usage comes from other screens deeper in the app. Furthermore, four times as much content drives the viewership on Discovery+ than on HBO Max. Simply put, people find and discover a ton more content on Discovery+.”

Apparently, all the company learned from Discovery+ was to provide bigger hero bar promos for shows and to put the menu on the top instead of on the side of the screen. It will also add different profiles and catch up with the rest of the industry! He also made vague references to machine learning improving recommendations.

How will Max improve profitability and drive revenue growth? (9:50)

Well, it won’t come from a price increase. The service will keep the same price for the existing tiers and add another premium tier.

  • $9.99 monthly ad-lite
  • $15.99 monthly for ad-free
  • $19.99 monthly for Ultimate

There was no hint that the ad load would increase, though they could boost it from the super-low 4 minutes an hour today and still claim it is “lite.” The main difference between the Ultimate and ad-free tiers is ultra-HD support (which existing subscribers to ad-free will get to keep, at least for a while,) more monthly downloads (100 versus 40), and more concurrent streams.

The main thrust of monetization improvements is to reduce churn, increase customer lifetime value, and develop dynamic tools to optimize monetization.

Churn reduction is interesting. Mr. Perrette claims half of the churn is voluntary – people explicitly cancel the service – and involuntary. The voluntary churn improvements come from more and better content and a user interface that better helps them find it. The involuntary churn comes from expired credit cards and maxed-out credit limits. WBD will start telling people in the app if there is a problem. If this works, watch the rest of the industry to follow WBD’s lead. Oh, and they’re adding PayPal as an option.

What they didn’t discuss (16:00)

David Zaslav - CEO WB Discovery

David Zaslav – CEO WB Discovery

They didn’t mention the FAST service they plan to launch later this year. They also didn’t mention CNN. Remember, David Zaslav, WB Discovery CEO shut the CNN+ service down immediately upon getting control. But I guess we’ll have to wait for another day to find out what will be happening there. Until then, will Max be “the one to watch?” I guess we will find out.

If you’d like a rough transcript of today’s podcast, head over to the nScreenMedia website. There are diagrams there that should be helpful in understanding the dynamics of the SVOD market too. Post a comment about the podcast while you’re there too. And why not sign up for the free newsletter?


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