WBD rethinks Discovery+ plans, reports WSJ

The ongoing saga regarding Warner Bros. Discovery’s (WBD) global streaming plans has taken a new twist with reports that the company is planning on keeping Discovery+ as a stand-alone streaming platform in the US. The story, first reported by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), runs counter to the recent presumption that the Hollywood giant was planning to bundle all of its content into a unified super streamer.

The current thinking is that WBD will go ahead with its plan for a unified streaming platform to rival the likes of Netflix and Disney+ – possibly called Max. In addition, however, Discovery+ would be available as a stand-alone option at a lower price.

The apparent u-turn is driving by concerns that factual programming fans who subscribe to Discovery+ for series like Shark Week won’t want to pay for an expanded service that offers them a range of content they don’t want. The fear is that they will churn out of the service, which currently has around 20 million subscribers.

Possibly, WBD also sees the distinct Discovery+ offer as a useful asset when it comes to working with third party platforms. Last month, for example, Discovery+ became free to some Sky subscribers in the UK – hinting at a new business model.

While there is some logic to keeping Discovery+ as a stand-alone streaming tier, the general view at WBD has been that running niche standalone streaming brands is inefficient. Last year, the company shut down both Golf TV and CNN+. Possibly, Discovery+ has sufficient scale to make it an exception to that rule.

WBD has shown a degree of indecision about how best to position itself in the streaming market – with Netflix and Disney+ already in the SVOD market with clear brand propositions. At the same time, the company has also seen Comcast, Paramount and Fox Entertainment make serious progress in AVOD with their Peacock, Pluto TV and Tubi brands. WBD recently made its first major into the FAST arena and is reported to be planning to launch a free ad-supported streaming service.

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