Max fans who don’t relish the idea of coughing up $9.99 per month more to access the Warner Bros. Discovery-owned streamer’s upcoming live sports tier might not realize that they’ve been making out like bandits with seemingly “free” sports content on other platforms for years, according to WBD global streaming chief JB Perrette.
“We’ve operated in sports in the direct-to-consumer space for a decade in Europe, through Eurosport, and what we learned there, through a lot of trial and error, is sports is a premium offering, it’s a passionate fanbase, obviously, it’s not something that appeals to everyone, and guess what? Everywhere in the world outside the United States, it’s priced separate,” Warner Bros. Discovery global streaming and games CEO and president Perrette told Variety co-editor-in-chief Cynthia Littleton at Variety‘s Entertainment & Technology Summit Thursday. “The only place in the world where it’s priced and jammed into the entertainment bundle is in the United States. We look at the model in streaming and say, now’s the time to actually reset that model. Rather than, like we see some of our peers giving it away for free — what seems like giving it away for free, because they’re just giving it for no additional costs in the entertainment price — we think it has to be priced separately.”
On Tuesday, WBD announced that beginning Oct. 5, a new “Bleacher Report” add-on package will be available for Max, including access to games from the NBA, Major League Baseball, the NHL and the NCAA “March Madness” tournament. The offering will also come with TNT’s popular “Inside the NBA” studio program and live international events such as “24 Hours of Le Mans.”
Warner Bros. Discovery says it will stream 300 live games on Max per year — but that it will cost you $9.99 to enjoy them, after a promotional period ends Feb. 29.
“It’s the right model, in terms of giving consumers choice,” Perrette said. “It’s the right model in terms of trying to make sure you set up a sustainable business model that derives enough revenue to support the ecosystem. We’re trying to build viable business models, not just things that drive short term subscribers.”
The sports tier plans come just ahead of Warner Bros. Discovery’s debut of the “CNN Max” streaming hub debuting on Max next week, and four months after Max itself launched as a combined HBO Max and Discovery+ in May.
In the time that Max has been available as the merged, rebranded product, Perrette says one-fifth of the content streamed has been legacy Discovery titles coming from Food Network, HGTV, Discovery Channel, etc.
“The title diversity, in terms of what people are watching, is proving out that ultimately a large portion of the base, as much as, obviously, HBO is the best and the most premium brand and content in television, that we all have also our guilty pleasures.”
According to Perrette, the “not surprising categories of content that are working extremely well” are true-crime titles, home and food content and adventure/survival content.
While it’s “early days,” Perrette says WBD is seeing subs increase their time spent on the service, which the company hopes will “eventually” lead to building scale following the initial drop in customers it took when HBO Max and Discovery+ were merged. (As WBD had expected, some customers — approximately 1.8 million — chose to cancel what was likely a duplicate subscription, lowering the overall count.)
“120 days into Max, a year and a half into the two companies coming together, we are well on our way in terms of a profitability turn, taking a business that lost over $2 billion last year and is now profitable in the first half of the year — which is pretty staggering,” Perrette said.
Max will begin rolling out in global territories in Q1 of 2024 with Latin America, where it was originally supposed to launch later this year, followed by Europe and Asia-Pacific regions.
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