Update Thursday, 5:40 p.m. ET
Well, it’s official: HBO Max and Discovery Plus will combine to become a single streaming service in the United States, parent company Warner Bros. Discovery confirmed in an earnings call on Thursday. The move had been expected following a number of media reports this week, along with widespread speculation on social media about the fate of HBO Max after some of its movies mysteriously vanished. The new service is expected to appear next summer.
Investors, fans, and the Hollywood elite are all anxiously awaiting the first earnings report from Warner Bros. Discovery, the company formed in April of this year with the merging of the media assets of Warner Bros. and Discovery. The merger gave the newly formed company major television media properties like CNN, Cartoon Network, Food Network, Turner Classic Movies, and more as well as all of Warner Bros.’s iconic IP, including Batman and the rest of the DC Universe.
But the merger also gave Warner Bros. Discovery ownership of one of the newest streaming services: HBO Max. And it’s primarily that service that has investors and insiders eagerly awaiting the company’s first quarterly results and, with them, hints at what changes Warner Bros. Discovery has in store for its streaming service.
Why all the fuss?
The drama kicked off earlier this week when Warner Bros. announced it was shelving the $90 million Batgirl movie, which was completely shot and destined for an HBO Max debut later this year. The news of the movie’s axing was all the more surprising because it featured an all-star cast, including rising Hollywood actress Leslie Grace and Hollywood icon Michael Keaton, who was reprising his iconic role of Batman for the first time in over 30 years. Additionally, Warner announced it was shelving the upcoming animated film Scoob! Holiday Haunt, based on the Scooby-Doo franchise.
The reason Warner Bros gave for the surprising axing of the Batgirl movie was that the studio wanted the DC brand to be all about major theatrical event releases from here on out—so the direct-to-streaming superhero movie now had to go. However, Variety reports that the real reason is likely so Warner Bros. Discovery can take a massive tax write-off for the film, which happens to align nicely with Warner Bros. Discovery’s CEO David Zaslav desire to cut costs at the fledgling company.
But the axing of Batgirl and Zaslav’s drive to cut costs has industry watchers fearing the worst news could be yet to come for the HBO Max streaming service. As The Wrap reports, Zaslav is set to announce a major restructuring to HBO Max soon after Warner Bros. Discovery’s first quarterly results are announced. As the publication notes, “The move will result in a gutting of HBO Max, significant layoffs for its executives and staff to minimize redundancies with HBO, and a combined streaming service with Discovery+ with a harder line separation between the scripted and unscripted content operations.”
If that’s the case, Batgirl and Scoob! could simply be a sign of other seismic changes yet to come. Warner Bros. Discovery stock (WBD) closed at $16.71 yesterday, up 4.44% for the day. Analysts are expecting the company to announce quarterly revenue of between $11.13 billion and $12.41 billion. We’ll find out how right they are later today–and also what’s in store for the future of HBO Max.
We’ll update this post once the news is out.