Assessing the Future of Max


Almost three years after launching HBO Max, WarnerBros is rebranding their flagship subscription streaming service to Max. The move comes after WarnerBros completed their merger with Discovery to become Warner Bros Discovery. Max will feature all programming currently on HBO Max alongside programming from Discovery+. 

According to the below graphic by JustWatch, HBO Max had a 14% market share in the first quarter of 2023 for streaming services, behind Disney+ (15%), Netflix (20%), and Prime Video (21%). Despite the fairly high market share, it must be remembered that all preexisting HBO and the now-defunct HBO Now subscribers gained automatic access to HBO Max. WarnerBros Discovery’s decision to rebrand the streaming service implies that they feel the service could do better with active engagement. After all, there was no obligation for the service to be renamed with the merger of Discovery programming. They could have simply taken Paramount+’s approach with the Showtime merger and added on a new price tier that included Discovery programming. 

Here is why Max could be WarnerBros Discovery’s big breakthrough into the streaming wars — and why it could fail. 

Why Max Could Succeed: The Content
As a media conglomerate, WarnerBros Discovery has a huge catalog for the streaming service. As the streaming home of HBO, Cartoon Network, DC, Max originals, and more, HBO Max already had a wide array of programming. Now that it’s adding titles from Discovery — think HGTV, Food Network, TLC, OWN, Discovery Channel, A&E, Lifetime, History Channel, and more — and Max will have plenty of content to choose from. If Max manages to be more successful than HBO Max, the content itself will be to thank. With WarnerBros Discovery estimating $50 million in profit for Q1 2023, Max could help lead streaming into a new era: one where streaming services reliably make money for their parent companies. 

Why Max Could Fail: The Name & The Rollout
If Max fails, it will be for many of the same reasons why HBO Max didn’t last long. There is already plenty of confusion of how Max differs from HBO Max, just as there was confusion for how HBO Max would differ from HBO Now and HBO Go. Max is essentially HBO Max and Discovery+ combined, which seems intuitive given the merger. However, by ditching the HBO brand and adding no hint of Discovery to the name, Max sounds more like a standalone service for the HBO Max original series. Additionally, Discovery+ will not be shutting down, giving people who are only interested in Discovery programming zero incentive to subscribe to Max. 

Max also faces the difficulty of launching during a writers strike. Ironically, this is a writers strike brought upon by the streaming wars, with WGA writers aiming to get more equitable working conditions. There has been controversy surrounding the WarnerBros Discovery merger itself alongside CEO David Zaslav’s high salary and decision to abruptly remove select Max originals from HBO Max. In fact, it would be unsurprising to find out if the rebranding is all part of an effort to put past controversies behind them, and focus on the future.

What do you think? Will Max fare any better than HBO Max? Let us know what you think by voting in the poll and leaving a comment!

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