If there’s one thing that sets Warner Bros. Uncovering its various rivals among major media conglomerates, that’s how much of a fuck spree the newly merged company seems to be giving on the concept of streaming.
We’ve had plenty of examples of this stupidity already, of course, starting with CEO David Zaslav abrupt decision kill HBO Max-exclusive movies like bat girl and Scoob: Holiday Haunt. But see also a new report from THRfocused on the company’s approach to the hallowed principle of streaming exclusivity, which many big streamers have spent billions on supposing will be one of the key issues separating peacocks from tubis and what have you got in the years to come. Everyone should have their own content catalog theirs, the idea goes, and this is not shared with the enemy. HBO Max, though? HBO Max doesn’t give a damn about that stuff; if you want something from his licensed library just name a the price.
See, for example, the company’s recent treatment of its The Lord of the Rings movies, one of the greatest treasures of intellectual property in WBD’s possession. JThat didn’t stop Warner from happily underwriting Peter Jackson’s films at Amazon Prime Video recently, as part of a promotional campaign for lord of the rings: power rings (which, to be clear, runs on a separate rights bundle from the movies, disconnected from this license agreement). Amazon got a nice promo for its show, Warner Bros. Discovery got a big stack of cash; it’s almost like we’re back in the world of Netflix around 2012, when business-to-business streaming partnerships were much more common.
Gunnar Wiedenfels, Warner-Discovery’s newly created CFO, pitched the idea at a recent conference: “We have a ton of content that has been sitting idle for purely fundamental reasons,” Wiedenfels said, noting that the deal with Amazon was a non-exclusivity window that might even have drawn some viewers to HBO Max. It’s a surprisingly compelling philosophy, asking, basically, what HBO Max actually does gets to keep a bunch of exclusive content locked away for itself.
Notice that the company’s transition to this mindset has been extremely ugly-buzz-Sawing already commissioned (or almost finished) projects, and treat creators who have been work for them in good faith like total rubbish. There is no reason, beyond a frenzy of budget cuts, CEO David Zaslav could not have deployed this transition more humanely, honoring the work that had already been commissioned before going back to producing exclusive content. However, at least there is something new to see a company approach its intellectual property not like a truncheon he can use to crush his enemies into submission, which has been the norm in streaming ever since about the time Disney+ has burst onto the scene.
Hell, they might even incorporate DC Comics properties into it; as we mentioned earlierseveral animated projects originally planned for HBO Max, including Bruce Timmis highly anticipated Batman: Crusader Caped– are purchased from other streamers. Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu all bite, and why not? It’s not like HBO Max needs this stuff.