HBO and HBO Max CEO of Content Casey Bloys defends the controversial decision to remove Westworld from the streaming service. Created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, Westworld first aired on HBO in 2016, running for four seasons before its surprising cancellation last year. Not long after the science-fiction Western was cancelled, it was announced that the show would be removed from HBO Max entirely, later ending up on Roku and Tubi where it would be available to watch for free, but with ad breaks.
In a recent interview with Variety, Bloys explains the reasoning behind Westworld‘s removal from HBO Max, revealing that both Nolan and Joy were consulted prior to the decision being made. Ultimately, the show’s removal is part of a larger attempt by WarnerMedia and HBO to attract new audiences as the streaming landscape continues to evolve in some big ways. Check out Bloys’ full comment below:
“I think people sometimes forget there is a vast majority of the population that don’t want to pay anything for a streaming service, not only here, but internationally. In the same way that Netflix was a brand new thing, let’s throw some shows up there and expose it to a new audience and see how it does. I think you have to kind of dip your toe in and see what’s out there. I have no idea if FAST is going to be a huge business. But I do know that some people don’t want to pay and are OK with getting ads. And that’s a potentially very big audience and a new audience for a show. So that’s something we’re trying.”
HBO Max’s Content Shake-ups Explained
HBO Max leadership has garnered a significant amount of controversy for various business-oriented decisions in recent months, most of which stem from the merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery+ last year. Following the merger, a number of drastic cost-cutting measures were put in place, starting, most notably, with the cancellation of the Batgirl movie starring Leslie Grace and Brendan Fraser. The movie, which had already been shot and cost $90 million to make, was axed as a tax write-down for Warner Bros. Discovery.
Not long following the controversial cancellation of Batgirl, it was announced that a number of other shows and movies would be cancelled and/ or removed from HBO Max, including Westworld, Minx, Legendary, Finding Magic Mike, The Nevers, and Raised by Wolves, among many others. The decision to remove and cancel so many movies and TV shows was part of larger “post-merger restructuring efforts” by the company, primarily driven by a desire to cut costs after years of more exuberant spending. Westworld would later be licensed to free, ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channels as part of a groundbreaking new deal with Roku and Tubi.
In fact, Westworld being handed off to a FAST channel is indicative of larger changes in the streaming industry where more companies are pursuing free, ad-supported options for content. Showtime recently engaged in a similar practice with some of its own shows and Amazon already has its own free channel with Freevee. As Bloys says, however, it’s unclear whether FAST channels are the future of streaming, but the industry is undoubtedly in a period of great flux.
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