Warner Bros. Discovery Worried That ‘HBO’ Name Turns Off New Subscribers

CEO David Zaslav is considering “Max” as the name for the service which combines the company’s flagship streamer and Discovery+

HBO Max new name
Warner Bros. Discovery's new combined streaming service will go from HBO Max to now being known as just Max.

Warner Bros. Discovery is pushing forward with a plan to drop “HBO” from the name of its flagship streaming service HBO Max.

That decision for the long-planned rebranding of the combined HBO Max and Discovery+ services was partially informed by the company’s belief that “the HBO name turns off many potential subscribers,” Bloomberg reported on Thursday and TheWrap independently confirmed.

The name change is meant to signal that the service will not just be HBO Max with Discovery content, nor will HBO Max be ported over to Discovery+. “Max” is the leading contender, though Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said on a recent earnings call that the new name would be officially unveiled April 12.

Publicly, Warner Bros. Discovery has positioned a name change dropping “HBO” as preserving what’s special about the HBO brand.

Paramount Global took a strikingly different approach with merging Paramount+ and Showtime by stacking the names on top of each other, so Paramount+ with Showtime would not lose either brand’s established appeal. (Or, possibly, neither entity was willing to cede top billing to the other.)

When HBO became an award-winning juggernaut in the ’90s with “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos,” the catchphrase used in its marketing was, “It’s not TV. It’s HBO.” A new motto could well be: “It’s not HBO. It’s Max.”

According to Bloomberg, the streamer will continue to charge $15-$16 per month for the ad-free version, as much as $20 a month for a new higher-priced tier which will offer better video quality and other high-end features and a cheaper, ad-supported tier for $10 a month.

The streamer will also add thousands of unscripted reality titles from Discovery at no extra cost to HBO Max subscribers, while Discovery+ will continue as its own separate, lower-priced service.

Thanks to series like “The White Lotus” and “Hacks,” HBO still nabs more awards acclaim than any TV network, but the streaming service still has millions fewer subscribers than rivals Netflix and Disney+.