Seriously. What Is Happening With HBO Max?
For the 76.8 million subscribers that HBO Max boasts, rumors of its potential cancellation are troubling. And it’s leading to a lot of questions across the internet (including The Mary Sue slack channel—what is going to happen to Our Flag Means Death? We’re panicking here). Basically, everyone is super confused, and while some details (of what is going on with the streamer) are becoming clearer, there’s a lot up in the air. Here’s what we know.
The History Behind HBO Max
HBO Max is a streaming service that made its debut in 2020 and was initially owned by Warner Bros. At its start, things looked promising for HBO Max. Very quickly, they were producing and releasing top-notch shows and movies, and it rapidly became one of the top streaming services.
Viewers were especially excited for the DC TV shows and films on the platform (and on the horizon). Many of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) films have found a streaming home on HBO Max, as well as many of Warner Bros. past DC films, and current TV shows such as Stargirl. Meanwhile, Matt Reeves’ The Batman meandered over to HBO Max in April to a big streaming opening. Reeves has plans to make his own Batverse and part of it is a slate of The Batman spin-off shows, including Arkham Asylum and Penguin, which were set to premiere exclusively on HBO Max.
However, on April 8, 2022, Warner Bros. merged with Discovery, Inc. Now, the platform is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, and, to many viewers’ surprise, HBO Max’s future is now very uncertain. Pretty much nothing highlights that uncertainty better than the recent, shocking cancellation of Batgirl. Batgirl was an upcoming DCEU film that was set to have a straight-to-streaming premiere in 2022. The film was already in post-production, with a $90 million budget, but Warner Bros. Discovery revealed that they would not be releasing the film at all. Now, with a number of Warner Bros. HBO Max exclusive films being quietly scrubbed from the platform, many are concerned for the streaming service’s future.
Is HBO Max Canceled?
Shortly after Batgirl‘s cancellation, HBO Max quietly removed a total of six Warner Bros. streaming-exclusive films. This included Moonshot, Superintelligence, The Witches, An American Pickle, Locked Down, and Charm City Kings. It is almost unheard of for a streaming service to remove its own original content. So, what is actually going on?
Well, we finally have gotten some answers. As of now, Warner Bros. and Discovery each have their own streaming platforms—HBO Max and Discovery+, respectively. Now that they’ve merged, though, it is being reported that Discovery also wants to merge their streaming platforms into one. This could mean that the HBO Max branding could be done away with completely, being absorbed into HBO and Discovery+ under a new name. Additionally, rumors suggest that the change means HBO Max will stop producing films specifically for HBO Max and will also entirely cease from making scripted TV shows. If the claims are true that 70% of the HBO Max development team will be laid off, then it only makes sense that the HBO Max scripted shows will cease or be absorbed into HBO.
This isn’t the first time since the merger that scripted series in Warner Bros. Discovery’s roster have gotten the ax. In April, it was reported that Warner Bros. Discovery would be halting development on any new scripted series at TBS and TNT. Which left fans (of both networks’ current programming) confused as to what would happen. Would new seasons of shows, that had already been picked up, get canceled? Now, we’re asking the same questions of HBO Max.
If scripted shows cease, and original films are no longer made exclusively for HBO Max, it seems that Warner Bros. would put the majority of their focus into theatrical releases going forward. Which might not be a bad thing, for those releases. But for fans of HBO Max’s other originals—like Our Flag Means Death, The Sex Lives of College Girls, Hacks, and many more—the future is uncertain for their favorite content. As this Discovery+ integration plays out, it remains to be seen what additional titles will be removed or canceled. Additionally, HBO Max, as a whole, could be canceled, with the streaming service being rebranded and HBO Max absorbed into HBO. However, if that happens, it seems unlikely that every show will end up being chosen to make the move to HBO—leaving the fate of several popular and critically acclaimed shows up in the air.
HBO Max-Discovery Plus
Late on August 4th, 2022, Warner Bros. Discovery officially confirmed our suspicions that HBO Max and Discovery+ are both being replaced by a joint streaming service that will be available in the summer of 2023. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav discussed that HBO Max, while enjoying some success, is not without its struggles, particularly technological issues. Meanwhile, Discovery+ has a better technical foundation, thus, Discovery+ will be the core of the new streaming service that combines Discovery+’s content and technology, with HBO Max’s content.
Zaslav reiterated that the product is going to be very good for users and that, contrary to anxious reports, they are not setting out to delete or cancel all HBO Max content. Instead, Warner Bros. Discovery seeks to use the best of both platforms. HBO Max has a plethora of features, but some performance issues, while Discovery+ has a solid infrastructure, but limited features. A potential name for the merged streaming service has not yet been provided.
For now, it remains to be seen what the HBO Max and Discovery+ merged service truly means for both platforms. In theory, is sounds like a fairly solid plan to capitalize on the strengths of both platforms. However, it doesn’t really provide the reasoning behind the cancellation of Batgirl, reports of lay-offs, and the removal of Warner Bros. exclusives from HBO Max.
(featured image: Warner Bros.)
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