Under a new agreement with Warner Bros. Discovery, U.S. Amazon Prime Video subscribers can again subscribe to HBO Max directly through Prime Video Channels.
In September 2021, WarnerMedia's then-CEO Jason Kilar removed the new HBO Max streaming service from Prime Video Channels, instead pushing for a separate app on Amazon Fire TV devices and greater control of consumer data for purposes including ad targeting and recommendations. HBO/HBO Max lost about 5 million subscribers as a result.
But new owner Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) has been reversing that isolationist strategy in favor of striking deals with partners to cost efficiently gain subscribers who can also be monetized through advertising. With more than 200 million global subscribers and more rapid growth being fed by investments including streaming "Thursday Night Football," few partners are more useful for building exposure than Amazon Prime Video. In fact, Prime Video has now eclipsed Netflix in U.S. subscribers, according to Parks Associates.
Now, for the ad-free HBO Max price of $14.99 per month, those who sign up through Prime Video Channels will automatically have access to the merged HBO Max-Discovery+ streaming service set to debut in spring 2023. WBD has not said whether HBO Max subscribers through other platforms will be automatically migrated to the merged service.
“Warner Bros. Discovery is committed to making HBO Max available to as broad an audience as possible while also advancing our data-driven approach to understanding our customers and best serving their viewing interests," stated Bruce Campbell, Warner Bros. Discovery’s chief revenue and strategy officer, in announcing the multiyear deal, which reportedly goes through at least the end of 2024. Discovery+ has been on Prime Video Channels since its launch in 2021.
Meanwhile, "Max" is reportedly the front-runner for the name of the merged streamer.
That’s the name most senior executives appear to favor, although it’s not finalized, according to CNBC sources, who report that the company’s lawyers are still vetting Max along with other possibilities.
A WBD representative confirmed that the name is still being discussed. Pricing is also still under discussion.
The merged streamer's name choice could be particularly critical, given what would seem to be ample room for confusion.
To some degree, consumers are still sorting out the difference between the iconic, high-end cable brand HBO and its relatively new streaming extension HBO Max — particularly given that the brand for a time also had HBO Go and HBO Now service options.
Combining HBO Max in one app with the even newer, much more broadly based and pop culture-oriented Paramount+ — which is to some degree still establishing its own identity — could be a challenge for marketing purposes.
But WBD management reportedly believes that HBO, which has a relatively small and U.S.-heavy subscriber base, is more valuable as one part of an offering that seeks to attract a much wider audience.
The merged app’s design will reportedly resemble that of Disney+, with separate tiles for various WBD brands, including HBO, Discovery, DC Comics and Warner Bros.
WBD has already been adding some Discovery content to HBO Max.
WBD CEO David Zaslav has also already reduced investment in HBO’s original content — traditionally its brand’s major differentiator — as part of his declared strategy to pursue profitability, as opposed to subscriber volume growth.