What the HBO Max merger means for you

Here are the shows that are and will remain (for now) and Marvel-ous plans for DC Comics

Over the past two years, HBO Max has been home to thousands of hours of HBO shows like The Sopranos and The Wire, all of Studio Ghibli’s filmography, and a slew of new HBO Max Originals. It was even a cheaper alternative to the Criterion Channel with its Turner Classic Movies section and a selection of many films in the Criterion Collection. By 2022, after the streamer fixed many of its app issues, many movie fans considered HBO Max to be the best streaming service out there.

So of course AT&T found a way to mess things up.

Batgirl is out, but HBO Max’s merger with Discovery+ will include a renewed focus on the DC Comics universe, executives say.
Tony Soprano, Meet Chip and Joanna

AT&T acquired Time Warner in a 2018 merger focused on driving synergies between its brands. The new company would leverage AT&T’s Internet expertise to promote HBO’s content. AT&T could never get it to work. The telecom giant spun off WarnerMedia into Discovery in April 2022, forming Warner Bros. Discovery.

Now, following the highly publicized cancellation of a DC Comics film, new WBD CEO David Zaslav announced in a second-quarter earnings call on Aug. 5 that HBO Max will merge with Discovery+ sometime in the summer of 2023. There is no new name or price point for the service yet.

One of the slides from WBD CEO David Zaslav’s conference call announcing big changes for the streaming service.

Soon you’ll find The Sopranos on the same service you use to watch Chip and Jo from Fixer Upper – a combination of HBO’s male skewed, date viewing strategy and Discovery+’s female skewed, comfort viewing strategy .

Yes, this slide is real and yes, people are right to make fun of it.
Batgirl and DC

Zaslav also said on the conference call that Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt were canceled because the company “didn’t believe in it [them]“:

“We won’t start a film until it’s finished. We’re not going to start a movie to make a quarter, and we’re not going to put out a movie unless we believe in it.”

However, Zaslav said DC would be a big focus for the company going forward, revealing a “10-year” plan similar to the ambitious formula of rivals Disney and Marvel: “You see Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman – these are brands that are well known around the world,” he said. “We did a reset. We’ve restructured the business, where we’re going to be focused, where there’s going to be a team with a 10-year plan that’s just focused on DC. We believe we can build a much more sustainable business.

“It is very similar to the structure of Alan Horn, [former Disney CEO] Bob Iger and Kevin Feige worked very effectively together at Disney,” said Zaslav. “We believe we can build a much stronger, sustainable growth business out of DC. We focus on quality. We will not release any film until it is finished. … DC is something we can improve on.”

So far, the upcoming The Flash movie is still rolling, despite Ezra Miller’s efforts to do the opposite.

What stays and what goes?

The future of HBO+Discovery (or whatever they’re going to call it) is uncertain, but a few things are certain. First, there will be no day-and-date film releases of Warner Bros. films like we’ve seen in 2021. Don’t watch Dune at home after seeing it at the cinema.

Second, alongside Scoob, a number of HBO Max Originals have already been canceled or removed from the service! Holiday Haunt and Batgirl. These include:

At this point, any remaining HBO Max Originals may be subject to cancellation or removal, but no further steps have been announced. This includes things like:

Any prestigious HBO content that first aired on HBO (Succession, Westworld, The Wire, etc.) should be safe. Theoretically.

Expect more reality TV to be added to the service before next summer when Home Box Office’s HGTV labeling is complete.

What do we do now?

If anything, last week’s news shows media companies are taking a detour to return to the ad-supported cable networks of 30 years ago. Netflix will have ads soon. Disney+ is finally starting to debut its Marvel and Star Wars shows on different nights so the She-Hulk and Andor premieres don’t conflict — a move some Marvel fanboys online are hailing as a revolution, despite being a routine programming schedule is appointment viewing.

It’s Uber reinventing the bus yet again. Disney already offers a bundle for Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+. Other streamers are likely to follow until further consolidation occurs and one company just owns everything (probably Disney).

As always with consolidation, less competition means less value and less quality for you, the viewer. As a cost-cutting business move, Zaslav’s cancellations make sense. You can’t have the next Game of Thrones if you don’t have money. But the execution is terrible. Canceling a bunch of shows and movies to save money, then saying you want to try and catch up to 14 years of Marvel worldbuilding? This is something from a Jack Donaghy subplot on 30 Rock.

Welcome to the streaming future. Everything is satisfied. Everything is subject to cancellation.

Just like regular TV.

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