Warner Bros. Discovery’s CFO has his eye on the bottom line
In the coming months, there’s a very good chance that Warner Bros. Discovery’s HBO Max and Discovery Plus platforms are both going to go through massive reinventions meant to bring the streamers more in line with CEO David Zaslav’s vision for their path to success. Much of the speculation about what the future holds for the streaming services has revolved around all of the content being pulled from them ahead of their fusing to become something new, But according to the company’s CFO, customers might also be looking at some noticeable price hikes as Warner Bros. Discovery reconsiders just how much it should be charging people to access its catalog on demand.
At this year’s annual Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference, Warner Bros. Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels spoke candidly about Discovery Plus and HBO just hours after the latter absolutely cleaned up at the 2022 Emmys. While Wiedenfels sang HBO’s praises for its output of critically acclaimed and wildly popular productions, he also described HBO Max and Discovery as two imperfect but complementary halves to a whole that will be stronger after being merged into one product.
Though Discovery Plus lacks the the sort of programming that generates “extreme buzz,” Wiedenfels said its superior, “cleaner” interface and reality-centric content make it perfectly positioned to keep HBO Max’s subscriber rates stable in times when new marquee shows and films aren’t dropping, pulling in new customers. Wiedenfels said that Warner Bros. Discovery sees combining HBO Max and Discovery Plus as a solid path toward minimizing churn for whatever new entity they become together, but he also noted that the company’s leadership sees both services as being “fundamentally underpriced” in their current incarnations.
With prices for HBO Max ranging from $9.99 (with ads) to $14.99 (no ads) a month and prices for Discovery plus ranging from $4.99 (with ads) to $6.99 (no ads), neither of them is the most expensive subscription streamer on the block right now (that’d be Netflix.) But Wiedenfels’ comments feel like a strong sign that the entertainment giant wants to change that and thinks consumers will be down to shell out a few more bucks a month to double-fist House of the Dragon and, say, Naked and Afraid. On paper, that sort of logic might make a certain amount of sense. But it’s tough to say whether it’ll actually pan out the way Wiedenfels as the rest of Warner Bros. Discovery’s leadership wants it to, particularly given how tumultuously the merger’s been playing out in the public eye and the growing sense that HBO Max in particular is not going to be the same kind of place it once was after it takes its new form.