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HBO Max Renaming Itself Max Proves WB Doesn't Know Its Audience

There's a fine art to naming a streaming service. "Netflix" is great because it's something on the "internet" you watch "flicks" on. "Disney+" is the name of the company with a plus sign at the end. "Paramount+" is also the name of the company with a plus sign on the end. Not everything is going to get an A+ in creativity, but these names get the job done. Subscribers know they're going to find Disney or Paramount content on their respective platforms. This leads to the biggest question of them all: What's a "Max" supposed to be?

HBO Max will soon change its name to simply Max in the aftermath of the Warner Bros. and Discovery merger. The newly christened Max will now contain an abundance of properties, from prestige television like "Succession" to reality shows from Discovery like "Deadliest Catch." As expected, the rebrand has been met with a ton of opposition online, forcing higher-ups to defend the name change. JB Perrette, president and CEO of global streaming and games for Warner Bros. Discovery, told Variety that while HBO is synonymous with quality, they felt a name change as prudent, saying, "We had Max, which was short, tight. Says something universal. Yes, the risk was ultimately that it's sort of maybe less ownable because it's a common word. But the flip side is that also made it very approachable and very easy."

It's certainly understandable from a business perspective, but it's not a good name, and it risks Warner Bros. Discovery's standing in the streaming wars. 

HBO has built itself up as a brand people trust

Before going any further, it's important to state that there's nothing wrong with "Max" as a human's or even a dog's name. There have been plenty of great Maxes throughout history: Max Greenfield, Maximillion Pegasus, and Max Power to name a few. Nothing wrong with any of those. But as a streaming service with the goal of getting as many eyeballs on shows and movies as possible, Max leaves something to be desired.

People know what to expect from HBO. It's produced some of the greatest TV shows of all time. Based on the above quote, it sounds like they want to make Max sound more inclusive to where people can find pretty much anything, whether it's "The Last of Us" or "90 Day Fiancé." Perhaps they didn't want the overall quality affiliated with HBO to be brought down with an onslaught of reality TV. Plus, anyone currently subscribed to HBO Max will automatically roll over into a new Max account when it comes online in May 2023. So perhaps any confusion with a transition is unlikely. 

And given Warner Bros. Discovery's plans for the streaming hub, it's definitely going to the max. Some of the planned series include a "Harry Potter" show adapting the original seven books, a "Big Bang Theory" spin-off, and a "Rick and Morty" anime. But regardless of the quality of the content, HBO stood out, and that's the way it always was. HBO was the big draw of HBO Max. It would be like if Disney+ rebranded itself as simply "+." That's not the thing people subscribed to the service for, and it could alienate people in the process. 

Max sounds like Warner Bros. Discovery doesn't trust its subscribers

In an attempt to encompass everything with Max, it ends up sounding like nothing. Even the streaming service's new slogan, "The One to Watch," sounds empty. Why is it the one to watch? What's there? Isn't every streaming service one to watch? The answer to those questions appears to be an executive shrugging their shoulders.

And it's true. By the sound of it, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav wants Max to be a hub where people can truly watch anything, including children's programming. Granted, that could be a major reason behind the Max moniker. HBO has always offered prestige television for adults. It's safe to say no kids should be watching "The Sopranos." HBO Max tried to bridge that gap by offering Cartoon Network shows as well as programs like "Sesame Street," but perhaps the "HBO" label made parents wary of signing up. "Max" doesn't come with that same baggage, so there's a chance the name change could allow the service to compete with the likes of Disney+, which is naturally a go-to spot for families with kids.

Still, HBO had the motto, "It's not TV; it's HBO." With Max, the motto should now be, "Nope, it's just TV again." HBO was something special. Characters in other shows and movies would brag about having it. Max is starting from square one and working its way up to convince people why it's worth having.

All this Max hubbub may be much ado about nothing

The internet hasn't been short of hot takes from people expressing their disdain for the new Max name. And while it's easy to make a meme out of, it likely doesn't matter at the end of the day. Everyone currently subscribed to HBO Max will probably keep their Max subscription. If new people want to sign up so they can watch "House of the Dragon" Season 2, they'll find it easily online to put in their credit card information. 

And it's important to remember that the executives got those jobs for a reason. They've likely poured a ton of money into market research and focus groups to determine what the new name should be, with everyday folks agreeing "Max" is preferable over something like "Warner Bros. Discovery+." But for many, it feels like a bureaucratic decision that neglected all of the goodwill HBO had built up over the years. For a long time, kids could brag to their friends about how their parents had HBO, so they could watch all the good stuff. 

Of course, all that good stuff is still there. As long as the company continues to invest in quality programming, subscribers likely won't mind as long as they don't have to dig past too many reality shows to find the next "Game of Thrones" prequel.