We have known for nine months that the merger of Warner and Discovery was inevitable. A pair of entertainment powerhouses (on the one hand, fiction products in two major branches -Warner and HBO-; on the other, documentaries) that until a few days ago did not make their union effective, now unveil the practical implications of this new situation: HBO Max and Discovery + will unite into a single platform.
As of 2023, HBO Max and Discovery+ will be one. It will not be a sudden change, but a progressive one: it will start with a bundle, that is, a special package for subscribers who request it in which both platforms will be included. However, this will not be a definitive option: the intention is that they will end up becoming one.
Two hundred thousand hours of material. After the merger, valued at 39 billion euros, Warner Bros Discovery will have at its disposal a catalog of more than 200,000 hours of series, movies and documentaries. It makes sense that they will try to combine all this in a platform that will include channels that already operate independently, such as Cartoon Network, TNT, TBS, TCM, TLC or CNN, in addition to, logically, HBO Max, Discovery Channel and DMax.
It’s a move that brings this future channel even closer to Disney+, which already bolsters its programming of Disney hits with a good amount of Discovery Channel documentaries. “We have HBO Max, with a more premium, male-oriented position, and you have the female positioning on the Discovery side,” says Wiedenfels, who highlights “the day-to-day engagement of people with Discovery content versus the eventual nature of HBO Max content. Together we are creating one of the most complete products with the four quadrants “old-young-man-woman.”
But this merger also suggests another option: that we are approaching the much-anticipated streaming bubble that some media were already warning about in pre-pandemic times, that is, before Netflix or HBO experienced out-of-control growth due to the confinement that the entire planet experienced. Are the big production companies trying to be present in the battle of the platforms? Yes, but also trying to diversify their offer as little as possible so as not to suffocate viewers.
Just look at how in recent times, powerful platforms such as Netflix or Disney+ are trying to grow, but always vertically, never diversifying into new brands. Even going outside their usual scope, as is the case with Netflix and its commitment to video games, the intention is always for the platform to be unique. In that sense, the last failed and resounding experiment in diversification was DC Universe, DC’s superheroic streaming platform that has ended up being absorbed by HBO Max, the core conglomerator of that universe (among other things).
DC Universe was the most talked-about case (because of its short life and because in a short time it was able to launch such stimulating productions as ‘Swamp Thing’ or ‘Harley Quinn’), but not the only one. Proposals that started with a differentiating format, such as Quibi, or that intended to pose a strong opposition to the already established Netflix or HBO, such as YouTube Premium in its format of original content producer, were falling or being absorbed by sister companies.
The new big entrant to arrive in 2022 is Sky Showtime, which joins this trend of conglomeration of previous brands. This Comcast and ViacomCBS platform unifies such popular brands as Sky, NBCUniversal, Universal Pictures, Showtime, Paramount Pictures and Paramount+ under one umbrella. So far, figures from studies such as this one on consumer habits in the post-pandemic world by Verizon do not indicate a decline in streaming consumption, and in that sense the platforms have not slowed down their plans.