The move was anticipated and previously announced in the television world, but it has nevertheless caused quite a stir. At a key moment for the industry, as the blockbuster era shows signs of slowing down, Warner Bros. Discovery announced on Wednesday night that its flagship platform, HBO Max, would be renamed Max in the United States as of May 23. The media and entertainment giant is taking advantage of the occasion to flex its muscle, expand its catalog and announce new offerings such as a series set in the Harry Potter universe and another show, The Penguin, that takes place in the world of Batman. For the moment, the change is limited to the United States. The company has announced that the change will go into effect in Spain, Asia and other markets sometime in 2024; it will provide more details “as the launch date approaches.” The change will take place in Latin America in the fall.
Max will acquire the complete Discovery+ catalog so that it can better compete with the offerings of Disney+ and Netflix, one of the main reasons the media conglomerate is making the switch. Discovery specializes in information and entertainment and offers over 20 channels and outstanding reality shows. The rates announced for the United States start with a basic tier at $10 a month (with ads); an intermediate tier at $16 a month (or $150 per year, the current standard rate in the United States), which covers two viewing devices at the same time and 30 downloads; and a premium tier at $20 for four devices plus 100 downloads and 4K playback quality.
The company has confirmed that the transition will be automatic; there will be no need to change usernames, passwords or platforms. Profiles, settings, viewing history and any HBO Max subscriber data will be migrated to Max. This process will be replicated later outside the United States. The new service “will feature a regular freshness of content with an average of more than 40 new titles and seasons every month,” the press release reads. “The Max service is a wide-ranging mosaic of content that will be unmatched in the breadth, reach, and excellence of its offerings,” Chairman and CEO Casey Bloys, HBO and Max Content, said during the online presentation from Los Angeles.
The evolving platform’s new programming seeks to reach the same heights as current series, such as The Last of Us, Succession and The House of the Dragon, as well as HBO Originals classics like The Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones and Six Feet Under. Max will make this extensive catalog available in one place.
Max’s first and most notable new series is one set in the Harry Potter universe. The platform has been in consultations for the project for years, and in 2022 it laid the groundwork with Return to Hogwarts, a reunion of the main characters (J.K. Rowling did not participate in it). The new show will have seven seasons, one per book, and its budget will be on par with the most recent HBO blockbusters. The first season has a budget of $125 million or more. “[It] will be that scale or higher. Whatever it takes to make a quality show,” Bloys told The Hollywood Reporter after presenting the new project. The eight Harry Potter films — produced by Warner, which also developed the Fantastic Beasts project — have grossed over $6 billion worldwide.
Bloys declined to comment on the controversy surrounding Rowling and the accusations of transphobia she has faced. “Our priority is what’s onscreen. The Harry Potter story is incredibly affirmative and positive about love and acceptance, and that’s our priority, what’s on the screen,” he said. The British writer, who created one of the best-selling book series of all time, will be included in the project as an executive producer, but she will not be involved in the show’s day-to-day affairs, according to Warner Bros. Discovery.
This new project will feature other iconic franchises as well. Max will have a new entry into the Batman universe called The Penguin, based on the character of the same name. The series will star Colin Farrell in the titular role. The platform also offers adaptations of the DC comic book factory in its current catalog, including the worlds of Batman and Batwoman, Watchmen, Supergirl, Preacher and The Justice League. In addition, the company has unveiled several dozen projects, including a Max Original comedy series spinoff of The Big Bang Theory; an HBO original prequel to Game of Thrones titled The Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight, which is based on George R.R. Martin’s three short Tales of Dunk and Egg novels and follows the adventures of Ser Duncan the Tall and a young Aegon V Targaryen (also known as Egg); a Max Original drama series based on the Warren Dossier films; and Magnolia Network’s Fixer Upper: The Hotel. The platform has also released a trailer for The Sympathizer, a miniseries in which Robert Downey Jr. plays four different characters.
Before making this name change, the company spent months reconfiguring its material and production capacity to adapt to the times and the demands of investors. Under David Zaslav’s leadership, over 70 projects have been cancelled or removed from Warner Bros. Discovery’s platform, such as Westworld. It remains to be seen whether Max’s rivals will make any moves in response.
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