Last updated on May 16th, 2023
Along with Paramount+ merging with Showtime, the most prominent streaming-related news this week’s the announcement that Warner Bros. Discovery will launch free ad-supported streaming (“FAST”) “channels” through Roku (via The Roku Channel) and Fox-owned Tubi. Said channels will carry some of the WBD back catalog; while most of it seems to be reality shows (surprise, surprise), it also includes some of the content WBD recently purged in its slash-and-burn austerity push.
The Tubi press release states the content would begin rolling out as early as February 1. Checking Tubi when I wrote this, I didn’t see any dedicated channels, just a few WB-owned movies. The channels set to launch:
- WB TV Watchlist
- WB TV Keeping it Real
- WB TV All Together
- WBTV Sweet Escapes
- WB TV Paws & Claws
- WB TV Slice of Life
- WB TV Welcome Home
- WB TV At the Movies
- WB TV How To
- WB TV Supernatural
- WB TV Crime Series
- WB TV Mysteries
- WB TV Love & Marriage
- WB TV Family Rules
Note most of the above are just Discovery’s reality shows under an overall “WB TV” branding. Apparently, now it’s OK to have a streaming service under the Warner brand name, versus HBO Max being named after a pay TV channel. The only non-reality show-centered channels: Watchlist (the home of the now-purged-from-HBO Max “Westworld”); All Together (family-friendly TV shows, including what I assume is the 2021 “Head of the Class” reboot, another HBO Max purge victim); and At the Movies (classic 70s, 80s, and 90s films).
My initial thoughts on the Warner Bros. FAST channels
I think launching a FAST service is one of the few good ideas Warner Bros. has come up with lately. However, I wonder why they didn’t launch their own stand-alone service, instead of going through third parties. While I suppose it’s a faster/cheaper way to get up and running, it also means dealing with the downsides of third-party arrangements.
Disappointingly, there’s no sign (yet) of anything animated in this lineup. However, the original “Scooby-Doo” and “Flintstones” series are already available on Tubi. I suppose old cartoons are what Boomerang is for; it’s been spared (so far) from WBD’s penny-pinching drive, suggesting it’s either been forgotten or it’s profitable as-is. I suspect the latter: no new material’s been made or added to it in a few years (though they did hike the monthly price by a dollar last year, from $5 to $6); it’s all older cartoons, including the Looney Tunes shorts HBO Max axed around New Year’s; and the only specific maintenance required is swapping seasonal playlists in and out, plus occasional updates to Boomerang’s social media outlets.
The future of Warner-related streaming services
Still, the state of Warner’s streaming, particularly HBO Max, is disappointing. When it was announced, I thought HBO Max would achieve my desire of seeing all of Warner’s animation catalog under a single service: Looney Tunes, Cartoon Network, Hanna-Barbera, and DC Comics shows all on the same app. (Remember when DC shows were on DC Universe Infinite?) Unfortunately, recent events have shown that’s not the case. Warner’s current management clearly views animation as expendable or an afterthought, and sees HBO Max as “HBO the cable channel with a few reality shows/WB catalog items added”—or how TV was 10 years ago. Too bad; at one point, I thought HBO Max could’ve replaced Netflix, but I guess not. (Netflix has its own problems, but they pale versus HBO Max’s turmoil.)
Since I canceled HBO Max (which I had under a Black Friday sale), for me I guess it’s back to how I treated Warner Bros. material 10 years ago: buying a few DVDs, watching some of their shows on competitors’ services (Hulu, the aforementioned Tubi, etc.), and otherwise ignoring HBO. The only difference is in 2013 I still had cable, and thus Cartoon Network/Boomerang. Ironically, my cable company was the now-defunct “Time Warner Cable,” now known as Charter-owned Spectrum.
I suppose there’s one (good?) thing out of all this. Between DVDs, using other streaming services, and Warner’s new free streaming channels, I won’t have to pay a dime for a Warner-owned subscription service anytime in the foreseeable future.
Image of “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You” on Tubi. (Tubi, Warner Bros. / screenshot by author)