After days of taking precision hatchet shots to the library of his own streaming service, HBO Max, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav went in for the kill today. Talking to investors, Zaslav revealed on a Q2 earnings call his plans to smoosh together HBO Max and Discovery+ into one big, mushy ball of content that absotively, posilutely, won’t have any Batgirl movies on it.
Let’s be honest: It’s never great, PR-wise, when the graphics or language from these sorts of earnings calls—which by their very nature boil all art and entertainment down into a thin slurry of financial credits and demerits to be fed into the ever-hungry maw of The Investors—make it out into gen-pop for wider discussion. But Zaslav’s presentation has come in for some extra special mockery online today, especially for a slide that purports to show the differences between the two streaming services that will now by bridged by their forthcoming unholy spawn.
HBO Max, we are told, is “male skew,” “scripted,” “lean in,” “appointment viewing,” and, of course, “home to fandoms.” Discovery+, meanwhile, is “female skew,” “unscripted,” “lean back,” “comfort viewing,” and “home of genredoms”—which we’re pretty sure is when a classic science fiction novel slaps on the ol’ sex jeans and gives you the Christian Grey treatment. The “fandom” vs. “genredom” thing is mostly inscrutable, but we get the sense that folks mostly wouldn’t have roasted the slide too badly if Zaslav hadn’t opened with the whole “male skew” versus “female skew” thing—especially since a) we can name any number of HBO Max shows with passionate female audiences (and vice versa for Discovery+), and, b), all the descriptors for Discovery+ seem precision-engineered to annoy the hell out of any passionate fans of pop culture, like, say, the people who genuinely care about your poor, bedraggled streaming service, David.
Zaslav also posted a slide of the various assets from the paired streaming services, including a “franchises” entry that includes Harry Potter, the DC Superhero films, and, of course, the 90 Day Fiancé Universe, a vast cosmology of TV products about marrying people in less time than most people spend with a toothbrush. (Wait, should we be changing out our toothbrushes more often?)
Which is mostly dumb, but not necessarily a bummer. But never fear: Zaslav had a slide for that, too. Specifically, he had one describing all the alleged money-losing sins perpetrated by his predecessors, including CNN+ (which has now also been absorbed into Discovery+). The humdinger, as it were, is this line item (emphasis ours): “Approved additional spend on projects with uncertain financial returns including Kids & Animation, CNN+, certain Turner originals, and select direct-to-HBO Max feature films.) God forbid a studio spend money on TV or films with “uncertain financial returns,” but, don’t worry: Zaslav has a solution. Here’s a quick tip, kids: If someone tells their investors they’re “restructuring” the “content portfolio” of your job, it’s probably time to get some cover letters prepped. The company’s CFO later confirmed on the call that a decent chunk of the company’s kids and animation projects were on the chopping block.
Amidst all the carnage, Zaslav and his team also laid out a timeline for the merge of the two services: We can expect them to relaunch as a single entity in Summer 2023, no name or price points announced. The hybrid service is expected to launch in both ad-free and ad-supported forms.