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Discovery, set to merge with AT&T‘s WarnerMedia in the coming months to form Warner Bros. Discovery, has announced plans to combine its streaming service, Discovery Plus, with WarnerMedia’s HBO Max into a single platform. During a presentation at the Deutsche Bank 30th Annual Media, Internet & Telecom Conference, Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels, who will also serve as CFO of the newly merged company, revealed that the initial phase of integration will involve some form of bundling until the company can determine the best way to merge the two platforms.
Discovery Plus currently boasts 22 million global consumers and is available for $4.99 per month with advertisements or $6.99 per month without ads. HBO Max, which is available for $9.99 per month with advertisements or $14.99 per month without ads, had a combined global subscriber base of 73.8 million in 2020. Wiedenfels did not disclose the cost of the merged streaming platform but stated that it will offer both ad-free and ad-lite options.
“One of the most important items here is that we believe in a combined product as opposed to a bundle… We believe that the breadth and depth of this content offering is going to be a phenomenal consumer value proposition,” Wiedenfels said. “The question is, in order to get to that point and do it in a way that’s actually a great user experience for our subscribers, that’s going to take some time. Again, that’s nothing that’s going to happen in weeks — hopefully not in years, but in several months — and we will start working on an interim solution in the meantime. So right out of the gate, we’re working on getting the bundling approach ready, maybe a single sign-on, maybe ingesting content into the other product, etc., so that we can start to get some benefits early on. But the main thrust is going to be harmonizing the technology platform. Building one very, very strong combined direct-to-consumer product and platform, that’s going to take a while.”
“The direct-to-consumer business is obviously further along now than what we had four years ago,” Wiedenfels said. “There’s a greater risk, you want to get that right. Between the two direct-to-consumer products, by the time we close, close to 100 million people are going to be affected as we make those changes. So that will need some very, very detailed and disciplined planning.”
The $43 billion merger is expected to close in the second quarter, with a targeted date range of April 11-28. Wiedenfels expects the merger to result in a “blowout DTC product” combining HBO Max and Discovery Plus, as well as “some very nice marketing synergy” for the Discovery and WarnerMedia brands.
“The combination could not make more sense than what we’re doing here,” Wiedenfels said. “We have HBO Max, with a more premium, male-skewing positioning, and then you’ve got the female-positioning on the Discovery side. You’ve got the daily engagement that people enjoy with Discovery content versus sort of the event-driven nature of the HBO Max content. Take that together, I have no doubt that we will be creating one of the most complete, sort of four-quadrant, old-young-male-female products out there. And I’m really excited about it. I can’t wait to see the first combined direct-to-consumer metrics because, in theory, the acquisition power of HBO Max, combined with the retention power of the Discovery content I think is going to make for a blowout DTC product, and that should certainly drive very healthy revenue growth for years to come.”
“It’s important to remember that DTC internationally is going to be an exponentially better business for us than the linear world,” Wiedenfels said of the new company’s global strategy.