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Why Westworld’s Removal From HBO Max Has Some Startling Implications

Dec 22, 2022


To say that the Warner Bros. Discovery merger has been controversial would be an understatement. Shortly after the two entities completed their merger in the spring of 2022, the new leadership of the combined company, David Zaslav, emphasized the importance of reducing the immense debt Warner Bros. had taken on under its previous owners, AT&T.

To accomplish this goal, Zaslav has enforced a series of unpopular demands that left many scratching their heads, from the cancelation of the completed Batgirl movie to the removal of legacy programming from WBD’s streaming service, HBO Max. Now, a new change to the company’s streaming service now raises some dangerous questions.
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At one point, HBO’s Westworld was a flagship series, lasting four seasons before being canceled in 2022. It, along with other HBO series like Legendary and Minx, will now be removed from HBO Max indefinitely. What is the reasoning behind this decision, and what does it mean for the rest of HBO Max’s library of shows? An unusual precedent has been set for the prestigious service, one that may completely change how people perceive HBO in the future.

Why Was Westworld Removed from HBO Max?

HBO

The removal of Westworld comes as a shock to fans and casual viewers of the series alike, as the series was highly praised for its exploration of science-fiction concepts and compelling stories. However, if we look back at how WBD has operated so far, it falls in line with Zaslav’s stated goals.

Related: Minx Canceled at HBO Despite Season 2 Renewal

To be blunt, Warner Bros., and by extension, HBO Max, was drowning in debt prior to the merger to the tune of 50 billion dollars, according to a report by Insider Intelligence. A goal of shaving down annual costs by the billions is an incredible financial burden, and to accomplish this, cuts have to be made somewhere. It would make sense then for programming that isn’t necessarily raking in the money to be pruned from the streaming service, along with in-progress projects being halted or outright canceled altogether.

For example, it’s heartbreaking to see projects like the Batgirl movie go under despite being so close to release. It’s an unfortunate byproduct of a business that, ultimately, needs to be profitable at some point. Westworld being removed so quickly after its cancelation is admittedly a little harsh, but it’s not entirely unexpected. Removing shows like Westworld allows for the elimination of a variety of costs. On top of the savings made by not continuing the show and hosting it on the streaming service, residuals paid out to the show’s actors can also be negated.

On top of all this, recent news has confirmed that cost-cutting and profitability played an essential part in this decision. According to a report by Collider, shows that have been pruned off of HBO Max may soon find a home on free ad-supported television (FAST) services, either on a third-party service unaffiliated with Warner Bros. Discovery or on their own internal service.

What Does Westworld’s Removal Mean?

HBO

Westworld being shopped out to other networks and filled with advertisements sets a strange standard for the HBO brand. At one point in time, HBO was synonymous with quality: paying for it meant that, regardless of what show you watched, you’d get something above and beyond traditional television. This also came with the benefit of having no advertisements, with each show having the advantage of having continuous pacing free from breaks, ultimately capturing a theatrical experience in the comfort of someone’s home.

But times have changed. Coinciding with an ad-supported plan for HBO Max, it’s possible that future programming on HBO Max in general may be subject to stricter viewership standards when it comes to future programming, with some being made with advertising space in mind.

It’s a “rock and a hard place” situation: HBO Max can’t keep operating as it did pre-merger forever, yet the money to continue onward has to come from somewhere. It’s a delicate balance of ensuring profitability while keeping audience expectations tempered appropriately. The latter, unfortunately, took a massive hit when a large portion of Max’s programming was suddenly removed, with Westworld’s removal, among others, only fanning the flames.

Related: Why Westworld Season 5 Would Have Been a Great End for the Series

While a mass exodus from the service is unlikely, judging from recent subscriber numbers, it’s possible that the reputation that HBO Max had built up since its inception, a bastion of high-quality programming outside just HBO products, may continue to falter. It’ll compound with other changes coming in the future, like the migration of Discovery+ programming and an upcoming rebrand for the service on the horizon.

Is the Rest of HBO Max in Danger?

HBO

The user base for HBO Max is already on edge after all these changes. While current subscriber numbers remain positive for Warner Bros. Discovery, it’s hard to ignore the fact that a good amount of content on HBO Max can be removed indefinitely on a moment’s notice — including shows and movies made by the service itself. While some may still exist in the form of video-on-demand, there’s still no guarantee that the content will remain in users’ libraries.

HBO Max is in a precarious position. While it continues to enjoy success at the moment, some are questioning the long-term viability of the streaming service if even original shows aren’t safe from a complete purge from the service. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see where these removed shows end up, and whether the use of FAST services will have a negative impact on programming going forward.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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