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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Why Your Favorite Show Is Leaving HBO Max

If your favorite HBO show has been canceled, take comfort in knowing that at least you’re not alone. This week, the streamer announced a number of shows that have been canceled, un-renewed, or removed altogether by HBO Max. They include fan favorites like Westworld, which built up a loyal following over four seasons before being canceled in November and, this week, slated to be pulled from the platform completely. Others are newer programs that found an audience more recently—Love Life, HBO Max’s first original scripted series, was canceled after two seasons and pulled, and Minx was canceled after having initially been renewed for a second season.
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This week’s cancellations follow the first wave of shows axed back in August as a casualty of Warner Bros.’ merger with Discovery. The pile-up of cancellations has saddened showrunners and disappointed their fans, who now have little to no information about whether their favorites might be available to stream elsewhere.

Here’s why HBO Max is cutting shows left and right, and where those series might be headed next, if anywhere.

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The WarnerMedia and Discovery Merger brought some unwelcome news

Sarah Shatz/HBO MaxJessica Williams and William Jackson Harper in ‘Love Life’

In April 2022, it was announced that AT&T’s WarnerMedia had completed its merger with Discovery+ to form the media conglomerate Warner Bros. Discovery. Several months later, major projects started to get the axe. One of the first to go was DC’s Batgirl, starring Leslie Grace, even though production had already wrapped and the film was expected to be released this year. The pulling of Batgirl was especially disappointing to those who eagerly awaited a Latina-led superhero film; the move came just after a beloved Latine-centered series, The Gordita Chronicles, was canceled following its debut season.

When he stepped in as CEO, David Zaslav laid out the changes that were to come at the newly formed company. The platform would no longer release films on streaming at the same time as in theaters, a pandemic-related decision he said no longer made economic sense. He also said that the company has been working on a 10-year plan for its DC Extended Universe, similar to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.

The fates of many popular series were left hanging, though Zaslav offered assurances that the company would “embrace and support and drive the incredible success that HBO Max is having,” during an August 2022 earnings call. This suggested that the platform’s biggest scripted series like The Flight Attendant, …And Just Like That, the Gossip Girl reboot, and Hacks were safe—at least for the time being. Then, the cuts came. In November, Zaslav promised shareholders that he would be “finding $3.5 billion in cost-saving synergies”—raising the target from $3 billion during a third quarter earnings call.

Which shows were affected

In August 2022, HBO Max quietly removed 36 titles from its platform. They included movies like Moonshot (three months after it premiered), The Witches, and Superintelligence and HBO shows like Mrs. Fletcher, Camping, and Vinyl; HBO Max originals like Generation; animated shows across Cartoon Network; and some Sesame Street specials. A few months later, in November, came the cancellation of the critically-acclaimed HBO hit Westworld, which had just premiered its fourth season. It wasn’t until this week that the show became one of several titles announced to be leaving the platform altogether.

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Joss Whedon’s 2021 sci-fi series The Nevers, which was gearing up for part two of its first season to be released next year, was also reported to be leaving the platform. But Variety reports that sources close to the matter say a handful of episodes may have already been completed and it’s possible they could find another platform to air on. The already canceled Gordita Chronicles was also set for removal from the platform.

Minx, a critically acclaimed series about a fictional feminist porn magazine, had already been renewed for season two. Three days before the cancellation, star Jake Johnson uploaded a photo to Instagram saying that the production was shooting the season finale. He uploaded another post addressing the HBO Max news: “We’ve been removed from HBOMax but we’re still finishing the season,” he writes. “So thankfully they didn’t halt production. We’re about a week away from being finished shooting. From what I am hearing S1 & S2 (and hopefully S3) will find a new home, the question is where.”

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Love Life had not yet been picked up for a third season. Sweet Life, a reality show from Issa Rae’s production company, was canceled, as well as the voguing-competition show Legendary, and the reality TV show FBoy Island.

Why these titles are being canceled and pulled

John P. Johnson/HBOEvan Rachel Wood in ‘Westworld’ Season 3

Many of the theories about why these shows are being canceled and removed from streaming boil down to saving money on taxes. Although movies like Batgirl or Scoob: Holiday Haunt had wrapped filming, implying a great deal of sunk costs, scrapping them could provide an avenue for cost-cutting in two ways: first, they could be considered tax write-offs, and second, refraining from completing and releasing them could save money on residuals paid to actors and creators whose content lives on the platform.

“Streaming services still must pay residuals to casts and crews of a production, and those costs pile up,” CNN reports. “HBO Max will save ‘north of $100 million annually’ after removing the shows, according to a source familiar with HBO’s decision.” The company ultimately has to weigh whether a title will “bring in more value to the platform than its cost? If the answer is no, and especially if that title is a low engagement title, which many of these are, then removing titles can benefit a company’s bottom line,” Julia Alexander, director of strategy at Parrot Analytics, told CNN Business.

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What could happen to these shows next

If history serves as an example, there may be hope for the shows that have a loyal (and loud) following, or for those that were at least partway through production and are now seeking a new home. If there is enough fervor to bring a series back, another eager streamer could still make a move. Brooklyn Nine-Nine was canceled by Fox in 2018, and just one day later, NBC picked it up and gave the show a new second chance. Netflix’s One Day at a Time had a similar story when it was canceled by the streamer and picked up by Pop TV, even if it only got one more season. The creator of Love Life left offered fans a hopeful note, tweeting that while he is looking for a new home for his series, at least it has not disappeared into a void. For those who are willing to pay $24.99, the series exists on iTunes—not ideal by any calculation, but better than evaporating entirely.

from TIME
via Time.com

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