The confusion surrounding the HBO Max and Discovery Plus merger just got denser, like a fog settling in over the heads of streaming customers everywhere. This merger, which was announced last year, was set to kill both services in favor of a new super-service. A new report, though, has muddied the waters.
According to The Wall Street Journal (opens in new tab), there's been "a strategy shift" in the plans for the HBO Max and Discovery Plus merger. Specifically, the report states "Instead of combining HBO Max and Discovery+ in their entirety, the new platform will feature HBO Max content and most Discovery+ content, with Discovery+ remaining available as a stand-alone option, some of the people said."
In other words, HBO Max and Discovery Plus would still combine to become a new service — rumored to be titled Max, yes, just Max — but Discovery Plus would stick around as it currently exists. Basically, Discovery Plus users won't be forced over to the new service.
This decision is said to be tied to parent company Warner Bros. Discovery's concern about losing some of the 20 million Discovery Plus subscribers who don't want to spend more on this new service. Overlapping content would include content such as Shark Week programming, and shows from the Magnolia Network from Chip and Joanna Gaines. The latter has recently been trickling into HBO Max (which Tom's Guide currently ranks as the best streaming service).
Analysis: WBD doesn't seem to care about irritating HBO Max subscribers
This change shows how Warner Bros. Discovery sees HBO Max and its subscribers: they're less worried about losing those fans by pushing them to a pricier tier.
The new super-service, of course, will cost more than HBO Discovery Plus which starts at $4.99 per month with ads, and $6.99 per month without them. HBO Max is $9.99 with ads, and $15.99 per month without ads.
This is odd, as it's hard to assume HBO Max customers would be any less interested in keeping their service — as Discovery Plus subscribers would if this rumor comes true — if they're forced to pay more.
What's truly head-scratching here, though, is that the numbers suggest that there are more HBO/HBO Max subscribers. Last November, we learned that there was a total of 92.1 million subscribers across HBO, HBO Max and Discovery Plus. If there are 20 million Discovery Plus subscribers, as The Wall Street Journal notes, that means there are more HBO customers — all of whom pay more than Discovery Plus subscribers — to be concerned about retaining.
As noted above, we at Tom's Guide love HBO Max, but this forced change (combined with a recent $1 price hike) would likely be frustrating and alienating. Especially if WBD is giving preferential treatment to Discovery Plus subscribers.