Max might not be the one to watch after all

Warner Bros. Discovery has been debuting its newer IP-based series on Max for the past few years in an effort to make it “the one to watch,” but the company is now switching things up with a big plan to rebrand multiple projects as — wait for it — HBO shows.

Though The Penguin and Dune: Prophecy were both initially billed as Max Originals, Deadline reports that Warner Bros. Discovery will now market them as HBO Originals as part of a larger effort to differentiate what kind of content is released under the two brand umbrellas. 

Now, the shows will premiere simultaneously on both Max and HBO the way other big tentpoles like House of the Dragon and Succession have in the past. This always kind of seemed like a given because of the success of the Batman and Dune franchises and WBD CEO David Zaslav’s professed desire to flood the space with IP riffs. But what’s interesting is how the move speaks to the way WBD is rethinking its decision to prioritize Max — one of the least inspired brand names imaginable — over HBO, a name synonymous with the birth of cable television.

After revealing last month that the upcoming Harry Potter, Lanterns, and Welcome to Derry Max projects were being rebranded as HBO Originals, content head Casey Bloys was frank with Variety about how using IP as a delineator between the two platforms “started to feel unnecessary” as the shows began staffing up. Bloys explained that in many cases, the creative teams behind this new crop of shows “were using the same methods, the same kind of thinking” as those who have worked on traditional HBO shows. That tracks given how many HBO veterans are in the mix for Harry Potter and how Damon Lindelof’s (of Watchmen fame) Lanterns will take cues from True Detective.

But it also seemed like Bloys was admitting that WBD’s attempt to make Max happen simply by slapping the name onto a series people probably would have watched anyway was a bust and that the company had come around to a more sensible plan to “just call them what they are: HBO shows.”

Despite Zaslav’s best efforts, a lot of people still think of Max as HBO going through a truly wild identity crisis, like a corporation struggling to find itself after its parent company married some weird guy. This pivot back to HBO probably means that Max won’t exclusively premiere WBD’s bigger, more expensive new series that it expects to pull in larger audiences.

That doesn’t exactly mean that Max will be hurting for new material, but it does seem like WBD could have saved itself a lot of time and money by sticking to what was already working.


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