There’s a lot of discomfort in the air surrounding HBO Max this week, especially after it was announced during Thursday’s earnings call that HBO Max will merge with Discovery+ to become one streaming platform.
The news came months after HBO’s parent company, WarnerMedia, merged with Discovery, and subsequently dropped clues that HBO Max might be scaling back its original content.
On Tuesday, Warner Bros. announced it had canceled the release of the already-filmed original movie “Batgirl,” which cost an estimated $90 million. Soon after, it was revealed at least six Warner Bros. movies had been pulled from the streaming service, including “Moonshot,” “Superintelligence” and “An American Pickle.”
Warner Bros. Discovery said Thursday that a merged version of the two streamers would launch next year, with the new name forthcoming. The shift follows Chief Executive David Zaslav’s new ethos that with more content available than ever, quality trumps quantity.
“Content that really resonates with people is much more important than just having lots of content,” Zaslav said during Thursday’s call with analysts. “In other words, at a time when almost every piece of content ever made is available to consumers across any number of free and paid services, curation, quality and brand have never been more important.”
Ahead of the call, actor/writer/producer Issa Rae expressed concern about the platform that carries her latest show, “Rap S—,” along with previous projects “Insecure” and “Sweet Life: Los Angeles.”
“Me finding out who to seduce and scheme at Discovery,” she tweeted Wednesday alongside a GIF of someone slinking along in a sparkly, snug dress and holding a purse. Robin Thede, creator of “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” which also streams on HBO Max, quickly hopped in the replies to add “SAME.”
Some commenters weighed in ahead of Thursday’s news, saying they didn’t think the merger would materialize.
“If [Warner Bros. Discovery] kill HBO Max to integrate it into Discovery Plus, that would be one of the dumbest decisions on the planet,” one user tweeted. “That’s why I don’t think it will happen. They can’t be that stupid.”
“I’m over here stressing about HBO Max like it’s a family member in need of prayer,” Saeed Jones, author of “How We Fight for Our Lives,” tweeted Thursday before the earnings call.
Creators expressed skepticism about the planned merger, too.
“I’m not sure if the fixes that were graciously done by the HBO Max Help team will carry over to Discovery+, so you’ve possibly got about a year to lean in and make an appointment for viewing OK. KO in the correctly scripted male skew episode order on HBO Max!” tweeted Ian James-Quartey, creator of the animated series “OK KO! Let’s Be Heroes.”
Sources previously told The Times that canceling projects such as “Batgirl” could potentially allow for a tax write-off for Warner Bros. Discovery. However, a person close to the company said that scrapping “Batgirl” was not a money-saving measure.
HBO and HBO Max reported a combined 76.8 million subscribers at the end of the first quarter of 2022, making it one of the most formidable competitors to Netflix and Disney+. HBO Max is the streaming home of a broad array of DC content, including the “Dark Knight” trilogy, “Peacemaker” and the animated “Harley Quinn” series.
“The crumbling of HBO Max before our eyes is infuriating,” tweeted entertainment writer Eric Francisco before the decision was . “Not because we should love HBO unconditionally but because the service has easily the best library of classic shows and movies AND daring originals that never feel like they’re made by algorithms.”
Times staff writer Ryan Faughnder contributed to this report.