Warner Bros. Discovery Explores Adding a New FAST Service

Warner Bros. Discovery reported Thursday that the number of direct-to-consumer subscribers to HBO, HBO Max and Discovery+ was up 1.7 million since the close of Q1, for a total of 92.1 million subs. As part of its effort to reach a broader streaming audience, the company plans to launch a combined subscription version of HBO Max and Discovery+ in summer of 2023. CEO David Zaslav revealed that the company is also exploring a free ad-supported TV service. “We see potential,” Zaslav said of launching a discrete FAST service, one that may offer different content from what is currently available on the premium VOD platforms.

Regarding the combined HBO Max and Discovery+, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO and president of global streaming JB Perrette told analysts on the Q2 call that “at the end of the day, putting all the content together was the only way we saw to make this a viable business,” according to Variety.

“Bringing HBO Max and Discovery+ together is aimed at cutting churn so ‘there’s something for everyone in the household,’ Variety continued, noting “WBD did not announce what the new brand name for the merged service will be, nor did execs discuss pricing for the unified streamer.”

“Warner Bros. Discovery, the media colossus formed this year by the fusion of the parent companies of HBO and Animal Planet, revealed the scope and strategy of its streaming ambitions for the first time, telling investors on Thursday it would offer free and paid services, with the goal of reaching 130 million paying subscribers by 2025,” reports The New York Times.

The newly configured HBO Max/Discovery+ enters a hotly competitive market. “The streaming landscape has become increasingly fragmented in recent years, giving users an array of options,” notes The Wall Street Journal, running down a list that has grown since 2019 to include Apple TV+, Disney+ and Comcast’s Peacock, in addition to the rebranded Paramount+ (from CBS All Access, which launched in 2014), Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.

Among those services, only Peacock offers a branded FAST tier, albeit with limited program options. But the field is crowded: Paramount introduced the Pluto free ad-supported TV service, Amazon has Freevee, Fox Corp. has Tubi, and Comcast offers Xumo. “Long derided as the second-class citizens of streaming, these services have grown considerably in reach, while streaming’s biggest player, Netflix, has lost subscribers for two quarters in a row,” WSJ writes.

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