Warner Bros. streaming plan Discovery risks tarnishing HBO’s name
There’s a lot going on at Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) right now.
The company’s newly anointed top brass canned major movies and TV shows en masse – regardless of cost (Batgirl) or critical reception (Gordita Chronicles) – while the threat of mass layoffs (opens in a new tab) looms darkly over those who work for its streaming divisions.
The restructuring comes as WBD attempts to cut approximately $3 billion in operating costs, savings it supposedly plans to reinvest in content creation when its big ambition – a new super streamer for everyone world – will come true in 2023.
The platform in question will see the conglomerate merge its existing HBO Max and Discovery Plus properties into one comprehensive streaming service that offers “something for everyone in the household”, according to WBD chief JB Perrette.
Currently, WBD’s entertainment offering includes, among other networks, HBO, CNN, DC Comics, Discovery Channel, Food Network, HGTV, Magnolia Network, OWN, TBS and TNT – all of which will be integrated into this streamer yet unnamed, as of in 2023.
Sounds good, right? Well not really. In addition to the aforementioned downsizing, the launch of said streaming service will come at the expense of HBO Max, which has become a bastion of high-profile programming in the two years since its launch.
Yes, HBO’s major hits – think Euphoria and Succession – will inevitably be transferred to this mysterious new platform, but WBD has expressed an explicit desire to reduce the production of scripted content, and suffice it to say that consumers are not not satisfied.
The collapse of HBO Max before our eyes is infuriating. Not because we should love HBO unconditionally, but because the service easily has the best library of classic shows and movies AND bold originals that never feel like they’re created by algorithms.August 3, 2022
if HBO Max is really folding into Discovery Plus and dropping all scripted content that might be the dumbest decision a company has made in the age of streamingAugust 3, 2022
As alluded to so eloquently in the tweets above, WBD’s decision to cut original programming is hurting the reputation of HBO, which is widely recognized as the premier producer of premium television thanks to critical, commercial and cultural successes. like Game of Thrones, Chernobyl, The Sopranos, Band of Brothers and The Wire.
Upcoming IP-based productions, including House of the Dragon and The Last of Us TV, will attempt to continue this tradition, but where will the new ideas come from? WBD seems to be foolishly betting on the idea that subscribers will turn to unscripted content offered by the Discovery Channel, CNN and TBS when they run out of premium television to watch.
In any case, the company seems set on its new master plan for streaming. “At the end of the day, bringing all the content together was the only way we saw to make it a viable business,” Perrette told analysts. Fair enough, but if HBO is to remain television’s gold network, WBD needs to reassess its commitment (or lack thereof) to original programming that pushes the boundaries.
Otherwise, the conglomerate risks facing the same criticism recently leveled at Netflix, whose crushing of mass-produced movies, shows and reality shows has left it on the run from subscribers and amid a reputation spiral.
The HBO name is hallowed in the world of small-screen entertainment – and Warner Bros. Discovery would be well advised to remember this.