We've got bad news and good news about Max, the streaming service formerly known as HBO Max. The bad news is that its parent company Warner Bros. Discovery has been working on a feature that you'll absolutely hate. The good news is that they've parked it – for now.
The story begins with WBD streaming boss JB Perrette, who told Variety about a new feature for "alerting Max viewers to breaking news while they are watching something else on the service, whether it be an HBO series, a Turner Classic Movies selection or an old episode of Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives". The news would come via CNN, which is joining the Max service on September 27 as CNN Max.
The reaction to the news was... not good. As BoingBoing put it: "When I'm watching a movie, it's because I don't want to know about that crap." And now it seems Max's people are furiously backpedaling on the story.
What exactly is Max going to do with CNN news alerts?
Right now, it's not doing anything. A source close to the streaming boss told IndieWire that even if Perrette wanted the feature, the tech to deliver it doesn't exist. And even if one of the best streaming services did develop it, the feature wouldn't be used to keep you alerted of, say, Donald Trump's latest legal woes. It'd be reserved for more serious things, such as the imminent end of the world or a major terrorist attack.
It does seem like the exec was spitballing rather than talking about serious plans. He also described rotating on-screen artwork that reflects what news anchors are talking about, and that feature isn't coming to CNN Max any time soon either.
What CNN Max will deliver is 24/7 news programming for free, and it'll feature its own live-streamed content plus a "substantial portion" of content from CNN US and International such as Anderson Cooper 360, The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Amanpour and The Lead with Jake Tapper. It's an attempt to return the CNN brand to its pre-streaming prominence: a subscription-based CNN streaming service, CNN+, was canceled last year.
The goal is to bring CNN to a wider audience. Speaking to Variety, Perrette said that CNN on cable and on streaming are very different demographics. The streaming viewers are on average 30 years younger and don't watch pay TV on cable. To attract them, CNN Max will be an "open beta" for news delivery, more experimental and potentially more interesting than its cable counterpart.