Streaming services HBO Max and Discovery+ are set to merge into one combined global platform next year, with worldwide expansion to follow. But UK viewers will not get this new service until 2025, at the earliest.
The new combined streaming service, which is set to launch in the US next summer, will bring together the critically acclaimed scripted content of HBO and HBO Max, with the unscripted and lifestyle-focused content of Discovery+.
The announcement was made on Warner Bros. Discovery earnings call this week, where CEO David Zaslav reemphasized the importance of the company’s content deal with Sky in the UK – the one which prevents HBO Max from coming to our side of the pond (although it already exists in several European countries).
Zaslav also reiterated that Warner Bros. has a long tradition of selling content to 3rd parties – so the company is not planning to look at the UK market (for its own streaming service) until 2025.
This is somewhat of a shift from the previous HBO Max administration (before Warner was bought by Discovery): Jason Kilar, previous WarnerMedia’s CEO, was reportedly “exploring options” to change the Sky deal – but that no longer seems to be the case.
HBO Max And Discovery+ Coming Together
HBO Max is a popular American streaming service that features content from HBO (the long-running premium cable network), as well as content from other platforms – DC, Warner and more.
So in addition to HBO classics like The Sopranos and Game of Thrones, and newer hits like Succession and Mare of Eastown, HBO Max also has a diverse library HBO Max originals, such as Station Eleven, Raised By Wolves (which was recently cancelled), Peacemaker and more.
Last year, HBO Max also brought day-and-date releases of most major Warner Bros. films that were released in US cinemas AND on the streaming service at the same time – such as Wonder Woman 1984 and The Suicide Squad, Matrix: Resurrections and more (something that will not happen again, according to Zaslav).
in the US, HBO Max costs $14.99/month for the “No Ads” tier, and $9.99/month for a version with adverts.
HBO Max is also available in several European and Latin American countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Spain and more. In the UK, the only way to get HBO Max is to use a VPN.
Discovery+ is a streaming service that launched in the US in January 2021 (and even before that – in 2020 – in the UK). It focuses on lifestyle and unscripted shows.
Together, HBO Max and Discovery+ have 92 million subscribers as of today.
In 2022, Discovery finalised its purchase of Warner Bros. (from AT&T), and this week, the company announced plans to merge HBO Max and Discovery+ into a single brand – a combined streaming service that will feature content from all of these major platforms.
The name and pricing for the new service have not been revealed yet, but it is set to launch in the US in the summer of 2023. Latin America will follow, with a European launch planned for 2024.
Warner Bros. Discovery also announced plans to launch a free, ad-based service (known as FAST – Free Ad-supported-Streaming-Television) sometime in the future.
Free Ad-based streaming services are becoming more and more popular, with some of the big players being Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, and even our very own ITVX, the new streaming service that is set to replace ITV Hub.
HBO Max In The UK: Not Before 2025
While we do already have Discovery+ as a standalone streaming service in the UK, HBO Max and its content, along with the newly announced combined streaming service, will not be coming to the UK anytime soon.
The reason? Long-term licensing deals that were signed with Sky (and its streaming service, NOW), long before HBO Max even existed.
These licensing deals have been in place since 2010, and are set to remain until at least 2025 (The extension to this deal was announced back in 2019, making Sky (and NOW) “the UK home of existing and upcoming HBO productions, as well as productions from HBO Max.”)
Therefore, most of HBO’s content can be found on Sky: from Game of Thrones and its upcoming prequel series House Of The Dragon, to DC shows such as Peacemaker, as well as Warner Bros. films.
And while the previous Warner Bros. administration kept hinting that they might look to change the existing deals with Sky – the new administration sounds quite content with the current situation.
In this week’s earnings calls, CEO David Zaslav talked of Warner Bros. “legacy” of selling content. “We want to sell to third parties”, he said, “It’s a very profitable business for us. We think it could be more profitable.”
Jean-Briac Perrette, President & CEO of Discovery International talked specifically about the Sky deal:
“We obviously have multiple years left in our existing and important and long-standing relationship with them.
“And so we don’t have to deal with that question at this point. Sky, the deal, is outside of the 2025 time horizon that we gave you projections on.
“And so as we get closer to the end of that deal, we will certainly come back to you with further thoughts on how we go to market in those three markets.”
Going forward, Zaslav emphasised that Warner Bros. Discovery will continue to sell content to companies such as Sky. “Anything that’s important to us to growing HBO and HBO Max, we are going to keep that exclusively”.
However, content that has “no impact” will be non-exclusive. And content Warner Bros. is “not even using right now”, could be sold to other streaming services, even at the expense of the combined HBO Max / Discovery+ platform.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that in the UK, a big Discovery+ merger is already coming – with BT Sport. While, for now, the two brands will remain separate, the plan is to create a single streaming platform that will combine Discovery+/Eurosport with BT Sport.
Years down the road, if and when HBO Max is added to that mix – this three-pillared combined platform can become a major force in the UK streaming landscape.
But not before 2025.