Warner Bros Discovery suspends HBO Max India launch indefinitely

Warner Bros. Discovery has suspended plans to launch popular US subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service HBO Max in India, even as the company considers global cost-cutting measures and works towards a merger of Discovery+ with HBO Max in existing markets.

The move prompted HBO Max’s head of Indian content, Saugata Mukherjee, to step down within a year of joining.

“There is no clarity on what Warner Bros Discovery is planning around HBO Max in India. Previously the plan was to launch in 1-2 years and the content team had started working on big projects. Now , they don’t even know if they will launch a service in India,” said a senior executive with first-hand knowledge of the developments. “All we’ve been told is that it won’t be launched until the end of 2024. In a rapidly changing OTT world, two years is a very long time.”

Mukherjee, who joined as chief content officer for HBO Max last year in November, is expected to return to SonyLIV.

He remained unavailable for comment.

“Saugata has decided to leave the company. He is an incredibly talented leader, and we wish him the best in his future endeavours,” a company spokesperson told ET.

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Asked about the company’s plans for India, a company spokesperson replied, “The intention is to launch a combined streaming service, including in key Asia-Pacific territories in 2024. .”

Earlier in June, Arjun Nohwar was named Warner Bros. Discovery’s general manager for South Asia. Before that, he was responsible for launching HBO Max in India.

Changes within the company are due to Warner Bros. merger with Discovery Communications, after the former spun off from AT&T.

“It’s a major miss for Indian content creators,” said a top producer, who was developing a series for HBO Max in India. “It’s a tough industry and we’ve worked hard over the past nine months. In our profession, it takes a long time. Just because Netflix and a few other international OTTs failed to break into the Indian market doesn’t mean India isn’t a good country to work in. It is unfortunate that their strategy changes every week.

In June, after the merger obtained regulatory approvals, the company’s CEO and Chairman, David Zaslav, implemented a series of cost-cutting measures around the world, to save $3 billion, which would resulted in the departure of many HBO alumni around the world.

Earlier this month, the company laid off about 70 workers, or 14% of its workforce, at HBO and HBO Max. The company had also shut down the CNN+ streaming service in the United States within a month of the launch, costing it around $300 million.

Globally, the company has undergone a massive restructuring, which has led to an upheaval in the entertainment industry in the United States. These include the cancellation of the movie, “Batgirl” and several shows.

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