Last year, Warner Bros. Discovery executives reaped the whirlwind when it was announced that the company would begin removing original shows and movies, like Westworld, Minx, and Gordita Chronicles, from the streaming service formerly known as HBO Max. Since then, the streamer has undergone a bit of a makeover and reemerged as Max, trading its signature purple branding for blue while adding thousands of hours of 90 Day Fiancé, Property Brothers, and other unscripted fare.
Now, after shedding some of the programs associated with its brand, Max is getting a new infusion of prestige-TV fare from an unlikely source: AMC Networks. Beginning September 1, Max will host a sort of programming pop-up where its subscribers will be able to watch a handful of AMC shows, such as Fear the Walking Dead and Killing Eve, for no additional cost.
The programming—including Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire, Gangs of London, A Discovery of Witches, Dark Winds, and Ride With Norman Reedus—will be featured in a special hub on Max. They shows will be available for ad-free and ad-supported Max subscribers in the US through the end of October.
That’s a pretty good deal for Max subscribers who might not have otherwise watched Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s delicious spy thriller or the ambitious gang epic from Gareth Evans and Matt Flannery. They’d have to pay at least $6.99 more per month to stream the same shows on AMC+. But it’s also a rather unusual move for two rival media companies. Remember that AMC once challenged HBO—which calls Max its streaming home—for the prestige-TV throne with Mad Men and Breaking Bad.
So why are Max and AMC teaming up? If one reads between the lines of the statements released by executives at both brands, the partnership seems to be a symptom of the existential crisis that has hit Hollywood. Max, like most streamers, relies on a steady stream of marketable new hits to keep subscribers coming back for more, and that pipeline has been threatened by the dual strikes, which are likely to stretch into fall with no apparent end in sight. AMC, meanwhile, is facing the swift decline of the cable television business. And while it offers its own streaming service, it has just 11 million subscribers across its entire streaming portfolio, compared with the 95.8 million at HBO, Max, and sister streamer Discovery+.
“AMC Networks makes great shows, and our goal is to bring these shows to as many people as possible, in ways that best serve viewers,” Dan McDermott, president of entertainment and AMC Studios for AMC Networks, said in a statement that served as a tacit admission that the network’s own platforms can’t launch hits the way they once could with juggernauts like The Walking Dead. “This promotional arrangement with Warner Bros. Discovery is a terrific opportunity to serve up some of our most popular and critically acclaimed programming to millions of Max subscribers in the US for two full months.”
Max isn’t the first streamer to bring another brand’s programming into the fold. Netflix, after all, made its name licensing shows and movies from around Hollywood. And recently, Peacock has added content from Hallmark and WWE as a result of some creative deals. As Hollywood continues to struggle with growing pains amid its shift to streaming, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if there are more odd couplings ahead.