There’s a lot going on at Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) right now.
The company’s newly anointed top brass are canning big movies and TV shows en masse – regardless of their cost (Batgirl) or critical reception (Gordita Chronicles) – while the threat of mass layoffs (opens in new tab) hovers sadly over those who work for her streaming departments.
The restructuring comes as WBD tries to cut about $3 billion from its operating costs, savings it reportedly plans to plow back into content creation when its big ambition — a new super streamer of all things — comes to fruition. 2023.
The platform in question will see the group merge its existing HBO Max and Discovery Plus properties into a single, integrated streaming service that provides “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 folded into this as-yet-unnamed streamer , starting in 2023.
Sounds good, right? Actually, not exactly. In addition to those aforementioned job cuts, the streaming service’s launch will come at the expense of HBO Max, which has grown into a bastion of prestige programming in the two years since its launch.
Yes, HBO’s big hits – think Euphoria and Succession – will inevitably be remixed on this mysterious new platform, but WBD has expressed an explicit desire to limit its production of scripted content, and it’s safe to say consumers aren’t happy.
The collapse of HBO Max before our eyes is infuriating. Not because we have to love HBO unconditionally, but because the service has easily the best library of classic shows and movies AND bold originals that never feel like they’re made by algorithms.August 3, 2022
if HBO Max does indeed fold into Discovery Plus and ditch all scripted content, it might be the dumbest decision any company has made in the streaming eraAugust 3, 2022
As so eloquently stated in the tweets above, WBD’s decision to cut back on original programming spells trouble for the reputation of HBO, which is widely recognized as the premier producer of premium television thanks to critical, commercial and cultural hits like Game of Thrones. Chernobyl, The Sopranos, Band of Brothers and The Wire.
Upcoming IP-based productions such as House of the Dragon and the TV show The Last of Us will look to continue this tradition, but where will the new ideas come from? WBD seems to be betting foolishly on the idea that subscribers will turn to unscripted content offered by the Discovery Channel, CNN and TBS when not everyone has access to high-quality television.
In any case, the company seems to be ready for 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 this a viable business,” Perrette told analysts. Fair enough, but if HBO is to remain television’s golden network, WBD needs to reconsider its commitment (or lack thereof) to pushing the boundaries of original programming.
Otherwise, the group risks enduring the same criticisms recently leveled at Netflix, whose churn of mass-produced movies, series and reality shows has left it leaking subscribers and in the middle of a reputation spiral.
HBO’s name is hallowed in the world of small screen entertainment – and Warner Bros. Discovery would be wise to remember this.