Friday, August 5, 2022

Warner Bros. Discovery to combine HBO Max and discovery+ video streamers under new name, earliest South Africa launch in late-2024 or later.

by Thinus Ferreira

South Africans will never get access to the global video streaming services HBO Max or discovery+, with these streamers now getting combined into one - with a new name - which will only be rolled out in South Africa in late-2024 or even later.

Warner Bros. Discovery is also going to keep more TV shows and content back it used to sell to channels like M-Net (DStv 101) to bolster its own streaming service, as it also scales back its content investment on linear TV channels available on DStv like Cartoon Network, to try and save billions of dollars.

The newly combined Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) released its second quarter earning report late on Thursday night and confirmed that HBO Max and discovery+, already available in the United States and other countries, will never see the light of day in South Africa as they're getting combined under a new name and "relaunched" next year.

South African consumers already have access to MultiChoice's Showmax, The Walt Disney Company's Disney+ since a few months ago, Netflix SA, Amazon Prime Video, VIU, TelkomONE,'s eVOD and with the South African public broadcaster planning to launch its SABC+ in late-2022, and with Paramount also supposed to launch its Paramount+ in 2023.

On WBD's Q2 earnings call on Thursday night, JB Perrette, WBD CEO and president of global streaming and games, said HBO Max and discovery+ are getting combined and will relaunch first in America in 2023 under an as-yet-unannounced name.

"At the end of the day, putting all the content together was the only way we saw to make this a viable business," he said.

The newly combined streaming service will initially be focused on subscription-driven sign-ups, although it also plans to launch a cheaper ad-filled tier, similar to what Netflix and Disney+ plan to launch.

After the American launch in 2023, WBD will launch its new combined streaming service in Europe in ealy-2024, in Asia-Pacific countries in the middle of 2024, and then in other markets in late-2024. Africa and South Africa haven't been mentioned, meaning it would only get the service in either late-2024 at the earliest, or sometime from 2025.

Kids content cut
Warner Bros. Discovery also confirmed on Thursday night it's cutting back on kids content, with the company running children's channels like Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Toonami which are available as linear TV channels across sub-Saharan Africa on traditional satellite pay-TV services like MultiChoice's DStv and StarTimes' StarSat.

On the earnings call, Gunnar Wiedenfels, WBD chief financial officer, said animation and kids content across both the streaming services and linear TV channels are getting cut back. 

He also mentioned that WBD is ending local content investment in international markets, putting a question mark behind some of the local investments the company has been making in content like CN to the Rescue on Cartoon Network Africa and My Cartoon Friend nominated for an upcoming SAFTA award in the Best children's programme category.

Gunnar Wiedenfels also mentioned that WBD is going to hit the pause button on new content licensing deals and that there will be a significant reduction in external content sales. 

M-Net in Africa and MultiChoice's Showmax have for instance benefitted for years from HBO output and content licensing and distribution deals to grab series ranging from Game of Thrones and the upcoming prequel House of the Dragon.