HBO Max Owner Reportedly Plans to Launch Two More Streaming Services—With Ads

Kevin Reilly, Content Officer of HBO Max and President of TNT, TBS, & TruTV, speaks onstage at HBO Max WarnerMedia Investor Day Presentation at Warner Bros. Studios on October 29, 2019 in Burbank, California.

Kevin Reilly, Content Officer of HBO Max and President of TNT, TBS, & TruTV, speaks onstage at HBO Max WarnerMedia Investor Day Presentation at Warner Bros. Studios on October 29, 2019 in Burbank, California.
Photo: Presley Ann (Getty Images)

Higher-ups at WarnerMedia are purportedly considering adding two new streaming services: one a free offering for its entertainment cable channel programs and the other a subscription-based CNN spin-off of sorts, the Information reported Friday.

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People familiar with the matter told the outlet that the latter could launch as soon as next year, though executives are still hammering out what kinds of content it would even carry (more on that in a bit). And both services would be separate from the AT&T-owned company’s recently launched HBO Max product and the contentious ad-supported version planned to roll out sometime next year as well.

WarnerMedia executives haven’t yet finalized their programming strategy for the CNN service, but it likely won’t offer the outlet’s signature 24-hour news cycle, a puzzling decision that only seems to undercut its brand power. To avoid siphoning viewers from CNN’s cable counterpart, sources said that executives are discussing “a lineup that could include custom-made shows, such as documentary specials on different topics, specials that drill down on issues of the day featuring its talent as well as international programming that may have never aired on CNN.”

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As for the possible free entertainment service WarnerMedia has cooking up, it would carry programming from the company’s cable channels such as TBS and TNT. The service, which is still early in its planning stages and likely wouldn’t launch until at least 2022, would feature ads and offer content either on-demand or by streaming TV broadcasts in the same vein as ViacomCBS’ Pluto TV service.

Man, someone really needs to tell Mr. Warner that quantity doesn’t always beat out quality, especially considering that its premium service, HBO Max, isn’t exactly racking in subscribers as it is. Roughly 8.6 million Americans have signed up to activate the service since its debut in May, which pales in comparison to the 73.7 million subscribers that competitor Disney+ added before the end of its first year. Throwing even more streaming services at the wall to see what sticks doesn’t seem like a sound strategy when there’s already a crowded market competing for viewers’ precious attention.

WarnerMedia is also reportedly struggling to get its business partners on board with slapping ads on its cheaper HBO Max tier since, well, most everyone hates ads, viewers and content creators alike. So to double down on a second ad-supported streaming service after that pushback is yet another puzzling choice. (WarnerMedia did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment on the report, but we’ll update this blog with their comments).

Then again, maybe this strategy is just too galaxy brain for us non-business peons to wrap their noggins around. And we’re all going to eat crow when it turns out WarnerMedia’s been playing a game of 4-D chess this whole time that just looks like the ill-formed brainchild of a bunch of executives trying to make a quick buck by barreling into the streaming wars to be with the rest of the multi-billion-dollar corporate cool kids.

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