Warner Bros Discovery is close to choosing Max as the name for its HBO Max replacement

In this photo illustration, Warner Bros. The Discovery logo on a smartphone screen and in the background the HBO Max and Discovery Plus logos.

Rafael Henrique | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Warner Bros. Discovery executives are close to formalizing a new name and platform for their soon-to-be-launched streaming service that will combine the already existing HBO Max and Discovery+ services.

The merged platform’s expected name, “Max,” is being examined by the company’s lawyers, according to people familiar with the matter.

Executives have not made a final decision and the name could still change, but Max is the likely choice, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Some executives are still debating a final name, two of the people said. Internally, Warner Bros. Discovery codenamed the new service “BEAM” while a final name is being discussed, the people said. Lawyers are also investigating other names.

The app itself will share similarities with Disney+’s platform, with Warner Bros. Discovery’s brands are like individual tiles, the people said. HBO, Discovery, DC Comics and Warner Bros. will be among the landing hubs on the platform, the people added.

A spokesperson for Warner Bros. Discovery said a name was still being discussed.

CNBC reported last year that WarnerMedia executives wanted a new name for the combined streaming service. While branding HBO Max with HBO crystallized the product’s prestige image, several executives believed the name could ultimately dilute the HBO brand as consumers confuse it with everything on the streaming service.

CEO David Zaslav has cut spending on HBO Max original series, helping reform HBO’s branding. Still, HBO has a limited audience, largely based in the United States, and the streaming service will offer much more than HBO — including reality TV from Discovery, news documentaries from CNN, movies from Warner Bros., children’s programming and possibly, eventually, live sports. Zaslav and his team see value in making HBO a sub-brand within the larger streaming offering, said people familiar with their thinking.

Warner Bros. Discovery management moved up the launch date for the combined service until spring 2023, the company announced in its most recent earnings call in November. Zaslav said during an earnings conference call that a team has been preparing for the launch of the combined offering and also experimenting with changes “largely to address some of the shortcomings of the existing platform.”

Zaslav noted that the latest changes already rolled out on HBO Max reflect this work, including the addition of Discovery content.

“These early green shoots reinforce our strategic thesis that the two content offerings work well together and when combined should drive greater engagement, lower churn and higher customer lifetime value,” Zaslav said on the call.

Pricing for the combined streaming service is still being discussed, the people said.

HBO’s confusing branding

There has been a debate at Warner Bros. Discovery to keep HBO in the name of the new streaming service given its prestige. But removing it from the name will also end a number of HBO-branded streaming services that have confused consumers. HBO Go and HBO Now preceded HBO Max.

Warner Bros. Discovery is trying to reform through a series of changes and cost savings. The company is struggling with a large debt burden, and like the rest of the industry, is figuring out how to make the streaming business profitable, instead of chasing subscribers while spending heavily on content. Zaslav told investors in November that the focus of the company and its streaming strategy would be to achieve profitability and not necessarily the number of subscribers. The company’s goal is to achieve a revenue of $1 billion in streaming by 2025.

“Although we have a lot more work to do and some tough decisions ahead, we have total conviction about the opportunity in front of us,” Zaslav said.

Commercial free monthly subscriptions to HBO Max and Discovery+ cost $14.99 and $6.99, respectively. They both also offer cheaper ad-supported tiers.

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