You know how you’re always complaining that there are too many streaming services and it seems like you have to pay for about five different platforms just to watch the 10 shows you hear about?
That may be about to change. The long-promised consolidation of the sector seems to finally be happening.
This morning, Warner Bros Discovery announced it will combine the media conglomerate’s two existing streaming services, HBO Max and Discovery+, into one service.
While neither HBO Max nor Discovery+ operates in Australia, the significance of today’s news could herald forthcoming changes within the industry that will eventually affect locally available services.
In Australia, there are close to two dozen subscription video on demand platforms. The high number of services has led to frustrations among consumers who are asked to shell out more and more money to access a fractured slate of programming.
The growth in the number of streaming services is approaching unsustainable levels, especially as customers began to evaluate household budgets during a challenging global economic environment.
The number of streaming services has been steadily increasing, ranging from niche platforms such as the horror-focused Shudder to broad appeal brands such as Disney+.
A consolidation of services within the industry has long been mooted and the Discovery+ and HBO Max merger could be the first in a coming wave as the sector evolves.
HBO programming, including Succession and the upcoming Game Of Thrones prequel House Of The Dragonand Discovery shows such as Deadliest Catch are distributed in Australia through Foxtel and Binge* while some HBO Max originals titles go to Stan.
Warner Bros. Discovery’s announcement was light on details on what the combined streaming platform might look like, only that it would roll out in the US in mid-2023. The current timetable for global plans are Latin America in late-2023, Europe in 2024 and Asia-Pacific in mid-2024.
There’s no confirmation on whether Australia would be one of those Asia-Pacific markets. Warner Bros. currently has a multi-year content deal with Foxtel, which is signed in 2020 with no publicly disclosed end date.
Warner Bros Discovery chief executive David Zaslav said of the combined streaming service: “We think that product is going to be superb.”
According to The Verge, Zaslav hinted that the new streaming platform would be built on Discovery’s technology platform, referencing the technical glitches that have beset HBO Max.
The changes to Warner Bros Discovery’s current multiple streaming platforms were pre-empted earlier this week with the revelations the studio was to shelve several projects that had either wrapped filming or delivered finished work.
The most prominent of the canceled titles was DC movie Batgirlwhich reportedly had a $US70 million ($A100 million) production budget.
Early media reports suggested that Batgirl had performed poorly with early test audiences and the studio was unwilling to spend the money for reshoots or the added cost of marketing.
Other media reports hinted that Batgirl and canceled projects such as Scoob: Holiday Haunt were sacrificed in the name of tax breaks.
The Batgirl axing fuelled speculation of a significant announcement about HBO Max’s future, given the DC movie had been commissioned specifically for streaming and not cinema release.
HBO is an American pay TV network which has been responsible for some of the most acclaimed series over the past three decades, including The Sopranos, Succession, The Wire, Game Of Thrones, Sex And The City and Veep.
Even though HBO has never been directly sold to Australian viewers, the strength of its brand and its association with quality programming has made it an international phenomenon.
HBO Max also houses Warner Bros’ movies archives.