HBO Max and Discovery Plus merger live blog: All the details on new Max streaming service


(Image credit: Warner Bros. Discovery)

There’s also the question of the inevitable free, ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) option that was teased at the previous WBD event. If you’re unfamiliar with FAST services as a concept, you may know some of the more popular services: Tubi, Pluto, Plex and Freevee.

These are some of the best free streaming services, and some deliver ad-supported on-demand TV (AVOD), others have linear TV channels where you can find content in a more traditional style that looks like actual traditional TV. The latter isn’t exactly always live, but it’s often presented in a TV guide-like format, which Google TV is doing with its 800-plus new free channels.

How WBD will get into the FAST ecosystem is to be seen, but it would make sense to see a free Max tier that offers a taste. Peacock used to offer this, but it’s been grandfathered.

We don’t expect to see a FAST offering today, but it will probably be a part of the Max roadmap.

A TV with the netflix logo and show art is on fire

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide/Netflix/Shutterstock)

The biggest apprehension — outside of the inevitable price hike — I have about Max is how it’s all going to be organized. This is, as I see it, The Netflix Problem. The Big Red Streaming Machine has far too much content, and an interface that doesn’t exactly surface the right stuff to me.

As I’ve said in the past, HBO Max is better than Netflix at letting you pick back up where you left off, as its Continue Watching row is always high on the page — while Netflix’s is always shifting around. If this new Max app can manage to organize both HBO Max and Discovery Plus’ libraries in an easy to sort view? 

That will be a miracle in and of itself.

A slide previews a Global Product with HBO Max and Discovery Plus

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Discovery)

As noted in our coverage of the leaked Max pricing, there will apparently be multiple pricing tiers (including an ad-supported tier) to this new service. And that reminds us about the notion of a modular functionality for Max, as was mentioned in the previous WBD presentation about this super-service.

One thing that HBO Max has needed, if you ask us, is the ability to watch linear HBO — so you’re not hitting refresh over and over again. In the above slide from the aforementioned presentation, Max will not simply be an on-demand only service. 

We’re curious, though, if WBD will charge people more for the live feeds.

Discovery Plus

(Image credit: Discovery Plus)

One of the interesting things about this rumored merger of services is Discovery Plus will remain its own service. Likely this is a move by Warner Bros. Discovery to keep users of Discovery Plus happy, given it’s a bit of a legacy service offered prior to Discovery merging with Warner Bros. 

Yet the company doesn’t seem too fussed about annoying HBO/HBO Max subscribers by introducing what could be seen as a confusing service. Equally, if the pricing is the same as HBO Max, then its current subscribers have nothing to worry about. But we understand how such things have a habit of rising in price once they are bundled with another service. Some $20 a month for Max wouldn’t be beyond the realms of imagination. 

Pedro Pascal as Joel in The Last of Us episode 6.

(Image credit: Liane Hentscher/HBO)

Looking a little into the future, we expect that The Last of Us season 2 (opens in new tab) will be a cornerstone of the Max streaming service. And this week, series leads Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey along with its co-showrunner, Craig Mazian, have been talking adapting The Last of Us 2  (opens in new tab)video game for television. 

Be warned spoilers follow….

An image indicating spoilers are ahead.

As players will know, in the game’s opening act, Joel is brutally murdered by a former firefly named Abby. And there has been some online speculation that the show may choose to rework this contentious plot point, especially in light of Pascal’s popularity with viewers. 

However, the actor seems unphased by his potentially impending fate. “It wouldn’t make sense to follow the first game so faithfully only to stray severely from the path. So, yeah, that’s my honest answer,” Pascal told Esquire (opens in new tab). Bella Ramsey also noted that they might not be “emotionally ready for it” if Joel’s death does happen in the show. While Mazian added that “neither Neil [Druckmann, co-showrunner] nor I feel constrained by the source material.”

Another take on the ‘Max’ naming convention, this time from Twitter user Richard Newby, raises a good point on the potential confusion the name could cause. 

We wonder if a last-minute change could happen, maybe keeping the HBO bit but adding more, like ‘HBO Discovery’; that’s not the most elegant name but it would be a statement of intent for what a new service could offer. 

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The compelling rumors of the ‘Max’ service don’t seem to be winning over any fans. One Twitter user Arlen Parsa raised a good point by saying that dropping the HBO part of HBO Max isn’t good marketing. 

We’re inclined to agree. HBO Max is a pretty clear name that shows you’re going to get all the best HBO shows ever made. Much like the HBO splash screen for every series is (mostly) a reassuring mark of quality. ‘Max’ on the other hand sounds a bit like some brand of whey protein powder or high-strength painkillers. 

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Succession season 4 key art featuring (L to R) Sarah Snook as Shiv, Nicholas Braun as Greg, Kieran Culkin as Roman, Brian Cox as Logan, Alan Ruck as Connor, Jeremy Strong as Kendall and Matthew Macfayden as Tom, standing on the balcony of a skyscraper

(Image credit: HBO)

If you’re looking to fill some time ahead of the Warner Bros. Discover press event in just a few hours, then you might want to catch up on Succession Season 4 (opens in new tab). The drama series is one of the crown jewels of HBO Max, and its latest episode delivered a twist that reminded us why it’s the best show on TV (opens in new tab) right now. 

You’ll find no spoilers here, but let’s just say the power dynamic in the dysfunctional Roy family appears to have shifted. And this time it might just be a permanent change. The award-winning show is confirmed to be ending with this fourth season, and remarkably it appears to be raising the stakes even higher — a feat we thought practically impossible.

Oh, and if you’ve somehow never seen Succession, you should correct that oversight as soon as possible. The first three seasons are also streaming on HBO Max and should be considered required viewing for all subscribers.

Whatever form HBO Max takes in the near future, you can rest assured it’ll not be short of compelling shows to watch. 

While Succession may be coming to an end, which is no bad thing, we’ve got House of the Dragon Season 2 to look forward to. As you’ll see from the tweet below, production on the next season of the Game of Thrones pseudo-prequel is underway. 

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Chip and Joanna Gaines

(Image credit: Magnolia Network)

This isn’t the first time Discovery-related content has seeped into HBO Max. In September 2022, HBO Max gained from the Magnolia Network, with all five seasons of Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Fixer Upper. We saw this as something of a test to see if the HBO Max audience has an appetite for the kinds of things hosted on Discovery Plus.

One wonders that if the “test” had been a bigger success that WBD could have felt emboldened to do an immediate price hike.

HBO Max app on a phone next to a bowl of popcorn, headphones and remote control

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

We’re not clear how long Max will be able to go without a price hike, but one feels more than likely. As you’ll see below, Discovery Plus costs either $5 per month with ads or $7 without ads, and it’s hard to see a world where that’s given away for free for long. Especially if Discovery Plus stays as its own thing. 

And while we can’t estimate the timeline for when such an increase would happen, it would likely be gradual at first. Ad-free HBO Max already went up by $1 per month earlier this year, anyway.

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