In what has been described by Deadline as “a hugely surprising move,” Warner Bros. Discovery is reportedly making some of its HBO archived titles available to its Netflix rival for North American streaming. Neither of the parties has yet commented publicly on the rumors.
If true, it would be the first time in almost ten years that HBO material would be available on a rival streaming service. At that point in time, for a cool $200 million, HBO sold off edited versions of some of its prime titles including Sex and the City to TBS and E!Style; Curb Your Enthusiasm to the TV Guide Channel; The Sopranos to A&E; and Entourage to Spike. In 2014, HBO and Amazon Prime Video had also made a deal to license The Sopranos, Deadwood, and other series.
Unnamed sources have told some press outlets that the Netflix decision was prompted by financial considerations. If things go according to plan, it would mean a sea change in the strategic model for premium pay services. On May 23, for example, Warner launched its Max rebrand, which combines the libraries of HBO Max and Discovery+. It’s all part of a significant overhaul effort by WBD, which it hopes to complete by the end of 2024, in which it could incur about $5.3 billion in restructuring charges before taxes.
It’s being speculated that Issa Rae’s comedy Insecure would be among the first titles included in the Netflix deal, with other shows under discussion. The show, which wrapped in 2021 after running on HBO for five seasons, had earlier been made available on Discovery’s OWN cable network, which was considered an unusual move at the time.
Although industry insiders were stunned by this week’s reports, the new move would not be altogether implausible, given that Warner Bros. Discovery’s CEO David Zaslav had earlier indicated his willingness to flexibility in licensing content. Several months ago, the company started making some of its titles to free streaming platforms like Roku and Tubi.
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