Originally the conventional wisdom was the Zaslav was stripping Warner Bros Discovery for sale with plans for a 21st Century Fox-type divestment of some prized assets to another media company, likely Comcast, with Zaslav’s goal basically being to enrich himself as the one of the highest paid CEOs (220 million compensation last year) and then to segue into being a major Comcast shareholder like the Murdochs are with Disney
However, the curious incident with the elimination of Director credits on Max (since reversed because the Guilds got involved) suggests maybe another endgame
From Twitter (I know): “Some insider info courtesy of a pal who will remain anonymous: this is a deliberate effort to blur the line between scripted & unscripted content, and has been baked into the UI for months prior to the WGA strike. David Zaslav wants to train viewers to love unscripted shows.”
To me this seems like the MO then would be to create an asset (Max) that will house mostly cheap unscripted programming with HBO and Warner Bros content comprising a less integral portion of the available library. Additionally, HBO and WB programming would be offloaded quickly to third party FAST services to create revenue streams (this is actually happening, with Westworld and others). Max would largely pipeline a smaller supply of new scripted content to subscribers but would create the illusion of having many new products because of the abundance of new and cheap reality programming. This is the “Halston Effect” - destroy a legacy brand’s reputation by diminishing the quality of its products in favor of cheaply produced schlock. This scenario makes sense if you look at some of Zaslav’s more curious actions- for example sending made-for-HBO Max products like Magic Mike 3 or the House Party remake to theaters. By putting them in theaters and then sending them to Max, he is creating the prototype for how he wants scripted content to function - to create “temporary value” for Max. Max would not be a place where scripted content is created, but simply a transitory stopping place on its way from theatrical (or premium cable) to FAST.
People were sad at the potential loss of Warner Bros. Studio if Zaslav sold it to Comcast and it was merged with Universal, but the potential for damaging Warner Bros and HBO artistic legacy is actually much greater if Zaslav chooses not to sell them.