Bosses at Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) today confirmed they would be bringing the company’s streaming service (Max) to Europe.
Gerhard Zeiler, WBD international boss confirmed Max is on its way to countries including The Netherlands, Spain, France and Belgium next year, alongside rollouts across Nordic and Eastern European countries.
Remaining noticeably absent from the announcement are the UK, Ireland and all other countries where previous management at HBO signed a content deal with Sky.
This deal doesn’t expire until 2025, when Sky faces major disruption to its service if it can’t strike a Paramount+ style deal with WBD.
The combined entity that is WBD means Sky is now uncomfortably reliant on a major competitor.
WBD’s services on Sky not only include TNT Sports and Eurosport, but also numerous other channels, including Discovery, Quest, TLC, Boomerang, Cartoon Network, Food Network, HGTV and Really.
In addition, and more importantly, Sky currently has access to HBO’s library of entertainment and factual shows to fill its channels and on-demand services. Sky Atlantic was originally launched as ‘the home of HBO’ shows.
The terms of any future deal with WBD will determine Sky’s position in the pay TV market. Lose WBD content or gain access to it at higher costs and subscribers may walk. If the price is wrong, shareholders will take a dim view.
An ongoing relationship with WBD is key not only to the number of channels Sky can offer homes, but also what Sky can show on its own channels and platforms from 2025.
There’s no doubt that WBD will want to get Max live in the UK and Ireland as soon as it regains control over all of its broadcast rights in both countries.
Arguably, WBD may choose the time to withdraw some of the channels it currently offers to UK and Ireland homes, perhaps concentrating on streaming channels (aka FAST channels) via Max, leading to a major pivot point in the history of Sky’s pay TV service.
We already know that its transformation of its sports services isn’t yet complete: after this summer’s launch of TNT Sports, Eurosport UK/Ireland is yet to face a revamp following the 2024 Olympics.
Max is also launching in Europe with a comprehensive library of movies, putting more pressure on the future of Sky Cinema.
Sky has already struck a deal with Paramount+, integrating the service onto its platforms and offering it for free to Sky Cinema customers. It may be more difficult for Sky to pull off the same trick with WBD once Max comes, without raising prices for customers.
Given what’s at stake, it’s no wonder WBD and Sky are tight-lipped as to what comes next. Any leaks would be commercial dynamite.
PICTURED: Warner Bros Discovery/Max logos. COPYRIGHT: Warner Bros Discovery..