By the summer of 2023, Warner Bros. Discovery will merge HBO Max and Discovery+ into one online streaming service.
The company's chief executive David Zaslav made the announcement on Thursday during a quarterly earnings call. If the merger goes through, it would mean shows such as "Friends" and the "Harry Potter" film franchise would be streamed alongside Discovery programs like "Deadliest Catch."
In April, Warner Bros. Discovery was formed after AT&T combined Discovery and WarnerMedia to launch streaming content that would compete with Netflix and Disney. The merger started with approximately $55 billion in debt and was forced to cancel services such as CNN Plus shortly after its launch due to a low subscriber base.
Warner Bros. Discovery plans to launch the new streaming service in Latin America before making it available in Europe and Asia by 2024. Jean-Briac Perrette, Warner Bros. Discovery’s global streaming chief, said the company wants the service to bring $1 billion in revenue by 2025. The monthly or annual consumer price for the merger product has not been announced, nor has a name been given to the service.
"At the end of the day, putting all the content together was the only way we saw to make this a viable business," Perrette said during the quarterly meeting. The executive noted that the combined content of HBO Max and Discovery+ will provide maximum content so "there’s something for everyone in the household."
The target subscriber base for the new streaming is 130 million paying memberships, which would be a 40% increase to Discovery+ and HBO Max's current 92 million subscribers. Meanwhile, competitors like Netflix are far ahead with 220 million subscribers, and Disney+ said in May their subscriber count stands at 138 million around the world.
The company is reportedly considering supporting the new program with advertisements, so subscribers can gain access to the platform for free.
Zaslav also announced during the call that the company would move away from releasing films directly to streaming as it did for "The Batman," "Dune," and the "Many Saints of Newark." He added, "This idea of expensive films going direct to streaming, we cannot find an economic case for it."
"Our focus will be on theatrical," Zaslav continued. "And when we bring the theatrical films to HBO Max, we find they have substantially more value."