MOVIE NEWS – Warner Bros. Discovery has recently severely curtailed the content coming to HBO Max, with local, homegrown content, Batgirl and several animated projects, including the J.J. Abrams- and Matt Reeves-fronted noir Batman, all being axed. In fact, it has also released the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, previously only available on HBO Max, to Amazon Prime Video for the premiere of The Rings of Power, even though the Peter Jackson-directed films were (apparently) a valuable part of Warner’s lineup. But is that bad for HBO Max?
The Hollywood Reporter has an article on the subject. Prior to WBD, WarnerMedia, the owner of HBO Max, made the streaming service, which launched in 2020, a top priority, and has designated and ordered a number of exclusive content for it. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, for which Warner owns the rights, are the most valuable titles in the library, but David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery’s CEO has changed his position on this, saying he is open for business on this front, licensing and no longer insisting on exclusivity for these and similar IPs. Gunnar Wiedenfels, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery’s chief financial officer, recently told Bank of America: “We have tons of content that we’ve been sitting on, just sitting idle, for purely theoretical reasons. The Lord of the Rings is a great [example]: we look at it as a non-exclusive opportunity, or as something that we’re giving up, and then there’s the additional revenue that comes in [from licensing it].” So Warner’s new official position is that it’s better to “lease” such titles to keep additional money flowing in to the company rather than “sit on them” like chickens on eggs just to keep them HBO Max-exclusive. And from Amazon’s point of view, this was useful because it gave Prime Video subscribers a one-stop shop for (movie) series from the Lord of the Rings universe.
In addition to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Warner is not asking for Batman: Caped Crusader, even though Batman is a brand name owned by the company that is supposed to attract a lot of viewers. But the Zaslavs have given up on this animated series for HBO Max, which they didn’t sell for good, and its creators are now officially hammering other streaming services, with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu competing for it. Of course, it wasn’t going to be part of the DC Universe anyway, so analysts say it made sense for Warner to ‘put Caped Crusader on sale’, although some say they could have done the same with Batgirl, especially as the film, also intended to be a Max exclusive, was almost finished. Incidentally, two other DC series like Abrams’ Caped Crusader are also on the way out, we learnt when the Constantine sequel was announced.
The Hollywood Reporter believes that with these moves and statements, Warner Bros. Discovery has made it clear that it is open to licensing in the future and no longer sees its own streaming service as the primary platform for exclusive content. So we can expect more similar operations, i.e. IPs and content that have been exclusive to Warner and HBO Max may well appear on the offer of other providers.
The Lord of the Rings is now more important than the Lord of the Rings
Meanwhile, according to another report, Warner Bros. Discovery has lost $2,000M in market value as it seeks to streamline its business in a cost-cutting drive. And although Dave Zaslav’s ambition is to get their really valuable IP, including DC movies, into theatres exclusively and to create a DC movie division similar to Marvel Studios, they don’t have their own “Kevin Feige” yet.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter