HBO Max and Discovery+ to become one streaming service to launch next summer
HBO Max and Discovery+ will merge to become one streaming platform.
Warner Bros. Discovery's CEO David Zaslav announced the merger during a second quarter earnings call Thursday, sharing that the newly-merged streamer will launch in the U.S. in the summer of 2023 with ad-free, ad-light, and ad-only options. Latin America, Europe, and other markets will follow soon after.
The restructuring will also "fully embrace theatrical" film releases following news that Batgirl would be shelved, cancelling plans of an HBO Max and theatrical debut. Zaslav said DC remains at the "top of the list" for the brand when asked about the scrapping of Batgirl, adding that Black Adam, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, and The Flash remain on the roster. "We're not going to put a movie out unless we believe in it," he said.
The team also denied rumors that the merger would result in the scaling down of original programs. "There was some buzz today about [how] HBO Max [is] going to start doing less series, and our strategy is to embrace and support and then drive the incredible success that HBO Max is having," Zaslav said during the call. The update comes after WarnerMedia and Discovery merged in April, combining a vast portfolio that includes Discovery Channel, Warner Bros. Entertainment, CNN, HBO, and Cartoon Network. There were no additional details shared on how the merger may impact current shows.
Rumors of a possible shakeup were abuzz before the call. The first indication came after Warner Bros. announced the scrapping of Batgirl, which already finished shooting and cost a reported $90 million to make.
"We are shocked and saddened by the news," directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah said in a joint statement following the news. "We still can't believe it," the statement read. As directors, it is critical that our work be shown to audiences, and while the film was far from finished, we wish that fans all over the world would have had the opportunity to see and embrace the final film themselves. Maybe one day they will insha'Allah."
Grace thanked the cast and crew in her own statement. "I am proud of the love, hard work and intention all of our incredible cast and tireless crew put into this film over 7 months in Scotland," she wrote on Instagram. "I feel blessed to have worked among absolute greats and forged relationships for a lifetime in the process!"
Warner Bros. also decided to shelve the $40 million animated film Scoob!: Holiday Haunt, which was similarly near completion.
"The decision to not release Batgirl reflects our leadership's strategic shift as it relates to the DC universe and HBO Max," a Warner Bros. spokesperson said in a statement to EW prior to investor call, adding that Grace is "an incredibly talented actor and this decision is not a reflection of her performance. We are incredibly grateful to the filmmakers of Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt and their respective casts and we hope to collaborate with everyone again in the near future."
Not long after the cancellations, HBO Max quietly removed six originals from its library: Moonshot, the sci-fi rom-com starring Cole Sprouse and Lana Condor; The Witches, a remake of the Roald Dahl classic starring Anne Hathaway and Octavia Spencer; An American Pickle, a dramedy starring Seth Rogen; Superintelligence, an action comedy starring Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone; Locked Down, a crime heist starring Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor; and Charm City Kings, a coming-of-age drama starring Jahi Di'Allo Winston.
While streamers routinely remove content to make room for more, the streamer didn't announce the departure of the Warner Bros. titles in their monthly "what's leaving" list, further raising concerns that the streamer would be axed. HBO Max dispelled such rumors, however, on Thursday, announcing that select programs from Chip and Joanna Gaines' Magnolia Network, including Fixer Upper, would arrive in September. The streamer also recently announced a new season of Selena Gomez's cooking show, Selena + Chef, an HBO Max original.