Last year was unsettling for anyone doing business (or wishing to do business) with industry behemoth Warner Bros. as it merged with factual powerhouse Discovery.
But as 2023 has come into focus, so too has the new face of Warner Bros. Discovery, which recently announced its new combined streamer, Max. On the family front, the platform made its four-quadrant intent clear with the announcement of a new Harry Potter mega series, and it has promised more kids greenlights ahead of an upfront that’s scheduled for May 17.
A spokesperson tells Kidscreen that the company’s commitment to kids programming never wavered, reiterating that those hoping to land a series on WBD platforms should still speak with Adina Pitt, VP of kids & family content acquisitions, partnerships and co-productions for the Americas. But after a year of significant uncertainty, what do execs on the other side of the equation think?
Cyma Zarghami, former Nickelodeon president and CEO of MiMO Studios, says she thinks the Max announcement was a positive one for children’s media. “It feels like [WBD] is paying attention to the kids space in a renewed and energized way,” she says. “As the dust settles on the still-young streaming business, companies are realizing they need to think of all the quadrants of audience opportunity.”
A recent Parrot Analytics report drew a similar conclusion, that blending HBO’s content for kids and adults with Discovery’s strong presence with women ages 25 to 54 has the potential to create a truly competitive four-quadrant streamer. The report states that Warner Bros. Discovery has one of the highest levels of demand for its content of all the major entertainment companies, and it can build out a deep catalogue of originals while still maintaining a business selling its library titles to others.
For Guru Studio president Frank Falcone, the new name sends the right message. He notes that the HBO brand has long represented high-quality primetime programming for adults, but doesn’t resonate with kids and families. HBO Max wasn’t necessarily reaching (or fully programming for) that quadrant, and he says he’s glad to see this white space being filled.
“I think it was clear to everyone that the particular blend of content on HBO Max was not the way to reach a large viewing audience,” says Falcone. “Sesame Workshop and Guru have continued working through the Charlotte’s Web (pictured) specials [for HBO Max], and so we always had faith that the new platform would plant the seed for a renewed kids strategy.”
The rebrand positions Max as a more generalist streamer, notes Guy Bisson, co-founder and executive director of Ampere Analysis, which is a good thing in a hyper-competitive streaming space where all the major players are courting whole-household subscribers.
It’s a sure bet that it won’t be just advertisers taking a close look at WBD’s spring upfront—Bisson and other industry stakeholders will be just as avidly tuned in to see what the full complement of 2023-2024 Max programming looks like at the annual unveiling.