Warner Bros. Discovery Lays Out Plans for Max European Launch

Tim Cross 16 October, 2023 

Warner Bros. Discovery plans to roll out its flagship streaming service Max in 22 European markets next year, the company’s president of international Gerhard Zeiler said at MIPCOM in Cannes today. But while the expansion will cover a number of major markets, some of Europe’s biggest markets including the UK, Germany, and Italy still aren’t set to receive the service, due to existing rights and distribution deals with Sky.

The service, rebranded from HBO Max following the completion of WarnerMedia’s merger with Discovery, will roll out in several waves. Initially it’ll be launched in the Nordic and Iberian regions, as well as the Netherlands and some Central and Eastern European markets in the Spring. A second wave will see the service launch in France and Belgium later in the year.

On the content side, a key part of Max’s offering will be live sports. WBD already holds a number of major live sports rights across the continent through its Eurosport channel, and at least some of this content will be available live streamed via Max. Max will also host live feeds of some of Warner Bros. Discovery’s local channels in a few European markets.

Max, like pretty much every major streaming service nowadays, has an ad-supported subscription tier in the UK. It’s not clear what the ad offering will look like in European markets, though it’s likely advertising will be included, since Max has offered an ad tier from the start.

A new era in the streaming war

Warner Bros. Discovery’s streaming strategy following the completion of the merger has been questioned by some industry commentators. Both WarnerMedia and Discovery already ran their own streaming services, but the company has chosen not to merge the two into one joint service. Instead it’s kept separate brands in Discovery+ and Max, though Max holds content from across Warner Bros. Discovery’s portfolio. The decision to drop ‘HBO’ from Max’s previous name ‘HBO Max’ drew some criticism due to HBO’s strong brand recognition.

And CEO David Zaslav has raised some eyebrows when he signalled a slight pullback on streaming, stating that the company w0uld not focus its entire strategy on streaming. Zaslav said on an earning call last year that his company “[is] not trying to win the direct-to-consumer spending war”.

But Gerhard Zeiler suggested the company’s strategy is working. Speaking at MIPCOM, he said that Max has started to become “slightly profitable”, something which not many services can claim.

And indeed Zeiler suggested that he’s seeing a wider change in attitudes from the major streaming services in terms of their content spend. Zeiler said he’s seeing more “rational attitudes” across the market, hailing the end of “the era of streaming we saw with an over-delivery of content under-priced at this low level”.

But while profitability is important, so is scale, as streaming looks to make up for struggling ad revenues from traditional TV channels. Warner Bros. Discovery will hope that its European launch for Max will add significant extra scale to help sustain overall revenues.

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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