On Aug. 17, HBO Max announced that they would be cutting 36 shows from their streaming line-up, including Infinity Train, OK K.O.! – Let’s Be Heroes and Close Enough. This announcement came as a surprise not just to the general public, but to the crews working on these shows. They had not been told about this decision ahead of time, and their livelihoods were suddenly up in the air.
Additionally, 20 of the 36 shows cut were HBO Max originals, meaning that they were only available through the streaming service. And with no news of a possible physical release, many of these shows may never be available to watch legally ever again.
This is not the first time Warner Bros. Discovery, the company that owns HBO Max, has made a move like this. There have been a number of cancelled projects for the company, the most notable of which being a Batgirl movie, which was cancelled in early August after the entire movie had been filmed. The cancellation was so sudden that the directors were reportedly locked out of the servers that the movie was stored on before any footage could be saved for personal reels.
These moves seem to have been made in an attempt to cut costs. When WarnerMedia was merged with Discovery Inc. back in May 2021, David Zaslav (the CEO of Discovery Inc.) stated that the merger would save both companies $3 billion USD. Despite this, since the merger Warner Bros. Discovery has lost $20 billion USD. Thus, they have been nipping upcoming projects in the bud before they spend too much money on them and taking shows off of their streaming services so that they no longer have to pay their creators residuals for their work. The removal of shows off HBO Max is estimated to save the company $100 million annually. The cost for the creators, cast and crews of these shows has not been calculated.
Additionally, while Warner Bros. Discovery may save short term by reducing production costs and residuals, there is a real risk that they may have just ruined their long-term profits. Infinity Train’s Owen Dennis spoke out about the purge, saying that Warner Bros. Discovery just ruined their relationship with creators:
“What is the point of making something, spending years working on it, putting in nights and weekends doing their terrible notes, losing sleep and not seeing our families, if it’s just going to be taken away and shot in the backyard? It’s so incredibly discouraging and they’re definitely not going to be getting their best work out of whoever decides to stay.”
In the weeks since the announcement, Warner Bros. Discovery stock (WBD) has been dwindling in value, hitting its all-time low on Sept. 8. The company is losing faster than they are earning, creators are now wary of working with them, and the purge of upcoming content means that Warner Bros. Discovery will have less sources of revenue in the near future. If this removal of content was done solely to save money, it seems unlikely that it will be successful.