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When HBO Max, Peacock and Disney+ launched, the backbone of their respective streaming services was the deep libraries of content that each of the powerhouse conglomerates had built up over decades. Now, as HBO Max transforms into Max, the new backbone of the platform that incorporates Discovery+ into the fold is leaning harder into the big franchises that continue to be a reason for subscribing in the first place.
On Wednesday, Warner Bros. Discovery execs — led by CEO David Zaslav and head of HBO and Max originals Casey Bloys — touted out the newly named platform and its focus on becoming the streaming destination for the everyone in the house.
The two executives formally announced plans for long-rumored live-action Harry Potter scripted television series — the first of its kind — as well as new installments of Big Bang Theory and Game of Thrones. Those will pair alongside the libraries of all three franchises and such other beloved properties as Sex and the City (and its sequel, And Just Like That), Friends and ER as well as scores of new incarnations of beloved kids and family programming as the combined HBO Max and Discovery+ adds scale to go head-to-head with Netflix and compete for (and to keep) subscribers.
“We’re not a giant, undifferentiated blob of programming,” Bloys quipped Wednesday morning from the stage on the famed Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Calif., while noting that Max is now one destination.
Just before Bloys, Zaslav touted Max as not only having “something for everyone in the household but something great for everybody” as its proximity to HBO helped to elevate such other brands as the former CBS comedy Big Bang Theory and new to Max programming from Discovery brands HGTV and TLC, among others.
The WBD focus on franchises is not a new strategy. Disney+ leaned into Marvel and Star Wars, among other beloved brands, at launch and now has multiple projects in both universes. Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access) launched with a new Star Trek series (Discovery) and built that into a multiple-show franchise. The streamer continues to lean into what’s working with the addition of a handful of shows in Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone world and recently announced plans to expand the worlds of Showtime’s Dexter and Billions, with multiple spinoffs in the works for both shows.
Game of Thrones still ranks as HBO’s most-viewed program ever and Bloys has been developing a number of spinoffs since the flagship wrapped. The newly ordered Dunk and Egg series, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight, expands the world and joins House of the Dragon on the platform. The series, sources say, is a two-hander and will be tonally different (one insider described it as “quirky”) than prequel House of the Dragon, and will (at least in theory) be cheaper to produce given its lack of dragons and smaller scope.
Harry Potter, meanwhile, will bring controversial author J.K. Rowling’s beloved seven-book series to new audiences as the live-action series will chart a similar course as the movies. Bloys described the show as having a budget similar to House of the Dragon as he hopes to deliver a “quality show” on the same scale. A search is under way for a writer and showrunner to steer the franchise, which counts Rowling as an executive producer.
Lastly, comedy powerhouse Chuck Lorre is returning to the world of The Big Bang Theory. The multicamera comedy ended in 2019 after 12 seasons when star Jim Parsons (Sheldon) opted to walk away from television’s longest-running multicamera comedy and a per-episode paycheck north of $1 million. While Lorre already has prequel Young Sheldon in its sixth season on CBS, sources say the prolific producer has had this spinoff in mind for some time and pitched Bloys on the idea. While sources say a script has yet to be delivered for the Big Bang offshoot and its premise is being kept under wraps, our money is on a sequel following Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) as new parents. The premise would court family viewing and help bring the household together on the platform that is courting each and every member of the family with different programming, be it news (CNN), sports, unscripted, kids fare and everything in between.
And speaking of the in between, the debuts of buzzy trailers for the new installment of True Detective, The Batman spinoff The Penguin and limited series The Regime and The Sympathizer helped illustrate not only the breadth of IP that Max has at its fingertips but also the original ideas that could become the next all-important franchise for the streamer. So if there’s any concern about what becomes of HBO (and Max) after the upcoming conclusions of Succession and Barry, Wednesday’s presentation is but another example of why the “what’s next for HBO?” narrative needs to be retired once and for all. They were fine after The Sopranos and Game of Thrones and we haven’t even mentioned such newer franchises as The White Lotus and The Last of Us.
As Zaslav said in his introductory remarks, Max wants to be “streaming’s version of Must-See TV with huge cultural impact because it’s a shared must-have experience.”
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