Some HBO shows could be heading to Netflix soon

A picture of chair and CEO of HBO and Max content, Casey Bloys, standing in front of the Max logo.
Warner Bros. Discovery dropped the “HBO” from “HBO Max” in May. | Image: Jeff Kravitz / Warner Bros. Discovery

After more than a year of brutal cancellations and layoffs at HBO, it looks like Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s devotion to quick revenue is as strong as ever. Warner Bros. Discovery may be licensing HBO Original Series to Netflix, Deadline reported yesterday. Deadline’s sources claim it’s a financial move HBO’s old guard disagreed with but that it’s necessary to shore up the bottom line. They also say it’s possible the deal may not see the light of day.

The show rumored to be the subject of the agreement is Issa Rae’s Insecure, which lived on HBO for five seasons until it ended in December 2021. Other shows would follow that. The deal wouldn’t be exclusive; WBD would still be able to show the series on its own platform, Max.

This wouldn’t be the first TV or film airing on two different streaming networks. Thanks to some contractual tomfoolery, you can currently watch Avatar: The Way of Water on both Disney Plus and Max. But this would be the first big streaming deal for WBD since it sold a package of canceled shows to free ad-supported television (FAST) networks including Roku and Tubi earlier this year. Those shows included the recently canceled Westworld and the unaired episodes of the Joss Whedon series The Nevers.

While the owner of a streaming service selling content to competitors is unusual, for years, it was kind of par for the course. Back in 2014, Warner Bros. licensed some of its biggest shows to Amazon Prime Video, including The Sopranos and The Wire, and before that, it syndicated edited versions of some shows to TBS and TV Guide. It was only when streaming services sought to create their own fiefdoms of content in recent years that selling shows to competing services slowed down.

But last year, Zaslav made it clear his company was “open for business” and they wouldn’t sacrifice their bottom line just to secure more Max subscribers. “We have a ton of content that has been sitting idly for just purely principle reasons,” CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels said at a Bank of America event last year.

The current rumored licensing deal comes after WBD’s recent rebranding and relaunch of HBO Max as, simply, Max, which saw a new pricing tier for 4K video and some signs the rollout was rushed, resulting in an embarrassing credits issue for which WBD was forced to apologize as it lumped writers, directors, and everyone else under a single “creators” heading, angering striking WGA writers. (Disclosure: The Verge’s editorial staff is also unionized with the Writers Guild of America, East.)

There are plenty of reasons to dislike Zaslav’s “open for business” approach, but being able to see high-quality shows like those HBO is known for on multiple platforms is rare as first-party content gets hoarded in streaming foxholes. And it’s a nicer story than a movie people put time and work into being canceled for tax reasons.

DoctorMorDi

DoctorMorDi

Moderator and Editor