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HBO Max Is About to Get a Whole Lot More Content (and It's Free)

HBO's customers are about to get a whole lot more content (while some of their favorite shows and movies may go away).

Shortly after launching in the summer of 2020, HBO Max quietly started to gain a reputation with film buffs, critics and, for lack of a better term -- TV snobs -- as the best streaming service. 

Yes, Disney+ had all that Marvel and Star Wars stuff you could ask for, and Netflix was (and still is) the biggest streaming service in the land.

HBO Max combined nearly everything from the HBO libraries, including classic series such as “The Sopranos” and “The Wire,” with nearly everything from Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, plenty of material from Looney Tunes and the DC Comics diaspora. Let’s also not discount HBO’s deep bench of comedy specials and documentaries, and access to the Turner Classic Movie channel gave the service decades worth of classic films.

The $43 billion dollar merger between Warner Bros and the reality TV show empire Discovery was finalized this spring, resulting in the newly named Warner Bros. Discovery  (WBD) - Get Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. Report. David Zaslav, the new CEO, announced plans to make the streaming service more competitive with Netflix  (NFLX) - Get Netflix Inc. Report and Walt Disney Co.  (DIS) - Get The Walt Disney Company Report, and to get its 73.8 million global subscribers into the triple digits. 

Zaslav also announced plans to introduce a less expensive, or even a free, advertising-supported tier for the service, and to begin moving the various reality shows under the Discovery umbrella into the HBO Max streaming service. 

The Discovery portfolio includes channels such as National Geographic, Animal Planet, TLC and HGTV. Getting that all in one place is going to take some time. But while there’s been a lot of questions lately about what exactly is going on with HBO Max, we at least have a sense of when a few Discovery shows will land on HBO Max.

Key Discovery Shows Head To HBO Max

We live in a fractured pop cultural world. Some properties, such as Marvel, Star Wars and “Stranger Things,” can seemingly cut across all boundaries. 

But plenty of properties are absolutely huge to one audience, and virtually unknown outside of it. So if you are a handy, fixer-upper sort, Chip and Joanna Gaines are very likely superstars to you. The pair have a mini-empire in the form of their Magnolia Network, a joint co-venture between the TV hosts and Discovery.

Select offerings from the Magnolia Network will be available on HBO Max, starting in September, including “Fixer Upper: The Castle.” This will be the first time Discovery-produced shows will be available on HBO Max. The Gaines might be unfamiliar faces to a crowd more likely to tune into dramas like "Succession," but who doesn't need help fixing up their castle?

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In related news, TV series and specials that were created for CNN, including the beloved series “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy” and “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” will get its own hub on Discovery+. The series were previously available on HBO Max until they were moved to the short-lived CNN+ streaming service.

David Zaslav Lead JS

David Zaslav.

So What’s Going On With HBO Max, Anyway?

Things have been, uh, eventful with HBO Max and the entire Warner Bros. Discovery network of late. Several beloved series including “Joe Pera Talks With You,” “The Flash” and “Gordita Chronicles” have been canceled lately, presumably as part of Zaslav’s attempts to find $3 billion in savings. 

Then news broke that the DC comics film “Batgirl” (which was set to be a direct to HBO Max film) has been permanently shelved, as it seems Zaslav determined a tax write-off would be of greater value than releasing the film. And lately the company has quietly been removing what’s been termed low-performing titles such as the TV series “Vinyl” and the direct to HBO Max films “The Witches” and “American Pickle” from HBO Max, again possibly for tax reasons.

(Let’s not even get started on what’s been going on with The CW, which Warner Bros. co-owns with Paramount Global.)

Zaslav is expected to give clearer guidance on HBO Max’s strategy in an upcoming earnings call. 

Critics and insiders have already been quick to accuse Zaslav of ruining the best streaming service, and rumors have been circulating on what might happen next. Ideas have circulated from HBO Max’s unscripted department, which recently oversaw the ridiculous hit series “FBoy Island,” getting axed and replaced by Discovery. 

There’s also been rumors that HBO Max might get a new name that more prominently features the title “Discovery,” or that there might be further cutback in the sort of critically acclaimed, mid-sized adult dramas and comedies (read: anything that’s not “Game of Thrones”) that HBO made its reputation on.

While that might be a fate worse than the Red Wedding, let’s see what happens on the earnings call before we declare the end of HBO as we know it.