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Feeling a little confused after last week’s streaming service events, in which Warner Bros. Discovery announced Discovery+ and HBO Max were merging into one big streaming service? You aren’t alone. The news (along with several high-profile cancelations, like Batgirl) had many of us buzzing. It was a trending topic on Twitter, many pundits weighed in with their thoughts, and many more wondered what this means for the streaming wars in general.
There have been so many announcements, rumors and new developments that it’s been hard for entertainment journalists to keep up, let alone HBO Max customers. So if you’re still trying to catch up, we’ve got you covered.
Read on for our HBO Max-Discovery explainer, including which projects have been canceled, what this means for surviving scripted shows and movies, and whether an HBO Max subscription is still worth it in 2022.
Why Have There Been So Many Changes at HBO Max Lately?
Here’s the simpelest explanation of what’s going on at HBO Max: following its acquisition by Discovery, HBO Max is undergoing a regime change, which has resulted in some controversial strategic pivots.
Last year, AT&T announced that it was selling WarnerMedia (which owned HBO Max and media properties such as CNN, TBS and TNT) to Discovery, the reality TV juggernaut that operates HGTV, Food Network, OWN and TLC. That deal closed in April, and insiders have been watching to see what would happen next. Some HBO customers are understandably nervous, as HBO is known for its prestige drama and award-winning content, while Discovery is best known for “Shark Week.” (And we say that with all due respect to “Shark Week.”)
There was silence for a while, then last week, during an investor’s call, the newly named Warner Bros. Discovery revealed it is merging Discovery+ and HBO Max into one new streaming service. At the time of press, that streaming service doesn’t have a name or a price tag. It’s also worth noting the mysterious service won’t launch until summer 2023. Until then, both streamers will function on their own… with some notable changes.
Those changes are causing a lot of drama both behind-the-scenes and in public. Already, entire movies have been canceled or disappeared, such as Batgirl. In an unprecedented move, Discovery announced that it would not be releasing the upcoming DC Universe movie, which had already finished filming. We’ve got more details on that drama below.
What Kind of Changes Can I Expect to HBO Max?
Leading up to the investors’ call, there was a lot of speculation that the new company wanted to shelve all scripted streaming programming and instead planned to focus on unscripted content. Then it would keep HBO as a premium cable channel for subscribers.
While that decision wasn’t confirmed during the call, the company has made some questionable moves. Not only has Warner Bros. Discovery canceled shows and projects, but it is also removing some of the straight-to-streaming movies that previously lived on HBO Max.
Some believe the company is removing and canceling content as tax write-offs following other cost-savings decisions. (Including the decision to cut $825 million worth of content after acquiring roughly $43 billion in debt through the deal.) While many scripted projects in development for HBO Max have been shelved, Discovery says that it will not be abandoning scripted HBO content altogether.
Tell Me More About This New Streaming Service
During the investors’ call, CEO David Zaslav revealed the company is looking to save serious coin by merging technology, offices and making some layoffs. However, to recoup costs, the company is targeting 130 million subscribers to the new streaming service by 2024 with a “healthy content investment” that will roll out at a “more measured pace.”
Content aside, the company revealed this new, unnamed service would use the tech stack of Discovery+, which many test groups have said they prefer to the famously buggy HBO Max interface. Once the new service establishes itself worldwide, it plans to launch a free, ad-supported version that includes some (but not all) of its content. In this sense, the merger could be good news for HBO Max customers, as the streaming service’s interface is its major downside.
“Our streaming strategy has evolved over the last year and reflects the importance of, rather than the dependence on [streaming],” Zaslav said.
What Is Happening With Batgirl?
In an infuriating move for fans, Warner Bros. Discovery canceled the upcoming release of Batgirl starring Leslie Grace in the title role. Not only was the $90 million project already shot and in post-production, but it featured a woman of color in a leading role and prominent actors like Michael Keaton (reprising the role of Batman), J.K. Simmons (Commissioner Gordon) and Brendan Fraser (the villain Firefly).
Zaslav was asked about the movie’s cancelation as well as the future of DC during that call. He revealed there is a 10-year plan for all DC films and noted that economically releasing a movie straight-to-streaming makes no sense. He also hinted that Batgirl (which was previously being considered for a theatrical release) wasn’t good enough.
“We are going to focus on quality… We are not going to release a film before it’s ready,” he said. “DC is something we can man make better, and we’re focusing on it now… Black Adam, Shazam and The Flash, we’ve seen them, we think they’re terrific, and we think we can make them even better.”
Okay, So The Flash Is a Go?
As of right now, Ezra Miller’s Flash movie is indeed a go, stirring up even more controversy with viewers given Miller’s personal problems (okay, scandals) right now. On the bright side, Keaton also reprised his Batman role in this flick for those still getting over the Batgirl cancelation.
What Other Movies and TV Shows Have Been Shelved on HBO Max?
Say farewell to Seth Rogen’s American Pickle, Melissa McCarthy’s Superintelligence, Moonshot starring Lana Condor and Cole Sprouse, the 2020 remake of The Witches with Anne Hathaway, the Doug Liman heist movie Locked Down and director Angel Manuel Soto’s Charm City Kings.
Additionally, LeBron James’ upcoming comedy House Party and the animated sequel to Scoob, Scoob: Holiday Haunt have also been scrapped.
In terms of TV shows? Vinyl, Mrs. Fletcher, Camping and Run have all been removed from HBO Max. Chad, meanwhile, was canceled at TBS the day of its second season premiere, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee is kaput, Little Ellen was also scrapped despite its third season completion and shows like Raised by Wolves, Made for Love, Close Enough, At Home With Amy Sedaris and Gordita Chronicles are also gone.
What Does This Mean For TV Shows Previously Renewed on HBO Max?
Fans are scrambling to find out the status of beloved shows like Peacemaker, Our Flag Means Death and yes, even the Sex and the City continuation And Just Like That following so many unexpected cancelations. And we don’t blame them one bit. Here is a list of shows that were previously renewed by HBO Max but whose fates are still unclear as of this writing:
- And Just Like That
- Doom Patrol
- FBOY Island
- The Flight Attendant
- Gossip Girl
- Harley Quinn
- The Other Two
- Our Flag Means Death
- Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin
- Rap Sh!t
- The Sex Lives of College Girls
- Tokyo Vice
Will There Still Be New Programming on HBO Max?
Previously announced launches of shows like the Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon, are still going ahead as planned. Meanwhile, select content from Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network will begin airing on HBO Max as of Sept. 30.
Overall the plans are still pretty unclear, but Zaslav did say the company will continue investing in content. Whether that means fewer shows with bigger budgets or more shows with lower budgets remains to be seen.
“We’re going to spend significantly more on the HBO Max product,” he promised. “We’re going to spend more money on content. We’re a content company.”
What About New Blockbuster Films on HBO Max?
With a previous HBO Max subscription, blockbuster Warner Bros. movies were guaranteed to stream for free on the service after a 45-day theatrical window. That meant movies like The Batman, The Matrix: Resurrections and the new Fantastic Beasts would hit the platform less than two months after they were released. Now, however, the service will be releasing new blockbuster movies on a case-by-case basis.
For example, before the announcements from Discovery, many people were excited to watch the new Elvis movie starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks on HBO Max. Now, you will have to purchase it separately via a video-on-demand platform such as Prime Video or Apple TV. It won’t be like that will all new Warner Bros. movies, but you can bet HBO Max is looking to save money and bolster revenue wherever it can.
What Does This Mean for CNN?
Warner Bros. canceled its CNN+ streaming service earlier this year, but Discovery is reviving it in a way. CNN programs like Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell will be available as of Aug. 19 under a new Discovery+ hub called CNN Originals.
If you’re curious about a Discovery+ subscription, plans start at $4.99 per month and include access to more than 70,000 projects. From ghosts and home renovation series to true crime and cooking shows, it’s basically an unscripted haven of things to watch.
Should I Still Get HBO Max?
While it’s frustrating to see shows and movies disappear from a service, the good news is that HBO Max’s library was already pretty robust. The service was proving to be a must-have with originals and premieres like The White Lotus, Mare of Easttown, Dune and The Matrix 4. Let’s not forget a subscription to HBO Max also unlocks all of the classic HBO series you know and love, from Game of Thrones and The Sopranos to The Wire, Veep and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
That, coupled with upcoming releases on HBO Max, still makes it a must-have streaming service for those who love TV and movies. That could change in the future depending on how the new management handles the service, sure. But it could also be worth it to get in on HBO Max before the service merges with Discovery+ and the price potentially increases.