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HBO Max just broke the unwritten rule of streaming TV

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Since Netflix debuted the likes of House of cards and Orange is the new blackstreaming services have adhered to an unwritten rule: their original series stand still.

Licensed movies and shows, of course, are being snatched from streaming services all the time. (See, for example, pull of NBCUniversal The office from Netflix to Peacock.) But if a new show debuts on Netflix, Disney+, or Amazon Prime, you can reasonably assume it’ll stay on those services for years to come.

This week, however, Warner Bros. Discovery indicated that the rule no longer applies to HBO Max, as the company is pulling out the once sizzling drama. Western world from the service along with a few other original series. According to Varietythe move will allow Warners to avoid paying residuals to the cast and crew, and is part of a larger effort by the company to turn a profit on streaming.

This may just be an isolated incident on Warner’s part. But with the whole streaming business become more cost consciousit could also be the start of a trend where streaming catalogs become much less stable.

What’s happening in Westworld?

Western world isn’t the first original show Warner has pulled from HBO Max. Earlier this year, the company selected several other HBO programs from the serviceIncluded Vinyl, Campingand Mrs Fletcher. Also removed some of HBO Max’s direct-to-stream movies and canceled several others that had not yet debuted, in particular Bad girl.

Western world it’s a particularly high-profile example, however, and Warners could pull it for more than just the cancellation of fees and residual reasons. Whereas those other shows have completely disappeared from the realm of streaming, This was reported by Nellie Andreeva of Deadline That Western world it’s likely to land on an upcoming free, ad-supported streaming service from Warner. The same goes for The Neversanother original drama that Warner is pulling from HBO Max.

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In other words, pull Western world it’s at least in part about extracting more revenue from a show that may not have generated enough HBO Max subscriptions. If prospective Western world viewers don’t cancel, but instead spend time watching the show on an ad-supported service, which makes it more profitable than it would have been on HBO Max alone.

Ad-supported streaming isn’t the only way Warner is looking to monetize its catalog outside of HBO Max. The company has been discussing bringing new DC Comics-branded content to the platforms Other compared to HBO Maxlike Amazon, and executives have argued “a more balanced approach to external licensingwhich had largely ceased under Warner’s previous leadership.

All of this suggests that the old pattern of hoarding original shows on HBO Max is going away. If a show isn’t performing as well as it used to, Warners may have no qualms about buying it around.

Will other streaming services retire their originals?

We’re entering further into speculation territory here, but as media companies come under pressure to make their streaming businesses profitable, I suspect Warner won’t be alone in loosening their grip on original programming.

Paramount already has has received some criticism from analysts this year for abandoning the “arms dealer” strategy and moving more content to Paramount+. In the entertainment industry, an “arms dealer” produces original movies and TV shows and sells the rights to that content to the highest bidder, rather than monetizing it through theatrical releases or their own online service. In a note to investors, Wells Fargo analyst Steven Cahall wrote that Paramount+ will never grow enough to be solidly profitable and that the company would make more money by selling more content to other distributors.

Meanwhile, Sony has boasted of his success like a streaming “arms dealer”. The company sold its stake in streaming service Crackle several years ago, and Sony has remained solidly profitable by selling its movies and shows to the highest bidders.

The money to be made in licensing must seem somehow attractive to companies like Netflix and Amazon and their traditional competitors in the media industry. These companies have spent billions of dollars creating vast catalogs of original content over the ea years 2020 report from a former streaming executive concluded that Netflix would come out ahead by licensing some of that old content, even if it lost some subscribers along the way.

While such a strategy might have seemed blasphemous a few years ago, when every streamer was chasing growth at all costs, streaming TV has since entered an era of bean counting, where companies scrounge where they can for profitability. As compared to price increases and crackdown on password sharinglicensing older original programming seems like a less risky way to get some money back.

What does it mean for you?

Unless (or until) we see companies like Netflix and Amazon announcing major licensing deals for older content, I wouldn’t worry too much about any of this. But Warner’s latest moves underscore the need to best universal streaming guides, so we can find programs more easily as they move between services. It’s also worth being aware of tools like PlayOn and DVR Channels; they can help you keep access to movies or shows even after they’ve been pulled from the streaming services you subscribe to.

And, of course, be prepared for a fresh round of grievances from naysayers cutting the cords if more licenses become the norm. They yelled when the companies started hoarding content on their own streaming servicesso we should expect them to yell again if said content starts propagating again.

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