There is a lot going on right now at Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD).
The company’s newly recruited senior officers collectively package major films and TV shows – no matter how much they cost (Batgirl) or cash reception (Gordita Chronicles) – while Threat of mass layoffs (Opens in a new tab) It looms bleakly over those who work in its streaming departments.
The restructuring comes as WBD attempts to cut about $3 billion in operating costs, savings it presumably plans to funnel back into content creation when its grand ambition — a new super streaming device for all people — comes true in 2023.
The platform in question will see the conglomerate combine existing HBO Max and Discovery Plus properties into a single, all-encompassing streaming service that provides “something for everyone at home,” according to WBD honcho JB Perrette.
Currently, WBD’s entertainment offering includes, among others, HBO, CNN, DC Comics, Discovery Channel, Food Network, HGTV, Magnolia Network, OWN, TBS, and TNT – all of which will be combined into this unnamed player. So far, in 2023.
Looks good, doesn’t it? Well, not really. In addition to those aforementioned employee deductions, the launch of said streaming service will come at the expense of HBO Max, which has blossomed into a stronghold of prestigious programming in the past two years since its launch.
Yes, the major successes of HBO – I think Euphoria and Succession – will inevitably carry over to this obscure new platform, but WBD has expressed an express desire to scale back production of written content, and suffice it to say that consumers are not happy.
HBO Max’s collapse before our eyes is causing outrage. Not because we have to love HBO unconditionally but because the service easily has the best library of shows, classic movies, and bold originals that never feel like they’re made by algorithms.August 3, 2022
If HBO Max is indeed joining Discovery Plus and ditching all written content, this may be the dumbest decision any company has made in the age of broadcasting.August 3, 2022
As eloquently pointed out in the above tweets, WBD’s decision to scale back original programming is causing reputation problems for HBO, which is widely known as the premiere 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 including House of the Dragon and The Last of Us TV will try to continue this tradition, but where will the new ideas come from? WBD seems to be foolishly gambling on the idea that subscribers will turn to the unregistered content offered by Discovery Channel, CNN and TBS when they are all outside of premium TV to watch.
In any case, the company appears to be intent on its new master plan for streaming. “At the end of the day, putting all the content together was the only way we saw to make this a viable business,” Perrett told analysts. Fair enough, but if HBO is to remain the gold network for television, WBD must re-evaluate its commitment (or lack thereof) to boundary-pushing original programming.
If not, the group risks taking on the same criticism recently leveled at Netflix, whose combined crush of movies, series and reality products has leaked subscribers and is in the midst of a reputation vortex.
HBO’s name is sacred to the world of small-screen entertainment – and it’s wise to remember Warner Bros. Discovery it.