February 1, 2023

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Recent changes to HBO Max expose the shortcomings of digital distribution in the context of film and series production

Recent changes to HBO Max expose the shortcomings of digital distribution in the context of film and series productionIn recent years we’ve seen the introduction of many different VOD services – the first promoter of the new market was Netflix, which offered more and more original productions, but at first it was largely based on content from other movie studios and series. In the following years, each company wanted its own platform, which led to a mass exodus of content from third-party providers from the Netflix service. As a result, today we have platforms on the market such as Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Disney +, Paramount + and (in some markets) SkyShowtime. Hopping between different contents isn’t uncommon in the VOD market these days, but recent actions by Warner Bros. The discovery on HBO Max clearly demonstrated the problem that digital content faces.

Author: Damien Mrusiak

On the web – whether on social networks, discussion forums or even in the comments within specific articles – you can often see discussions between supporters of digital access to video content as well as people who prefer physical media above all else. However, there are fewer of the latter, and we’re often simply talking about collectors who are not only interested in the movies and series themselves, but also often limited editions that would look great on a shelf at home. The advantage of digital distribution of movies or series is that they are mainly accessible and affordable. The latter, in turn, justify their choice by having access to the chosen production at any time, without fear that something will suddenly disappear from one of the many VOD services. However, the subject of today’s considerations will be primarily HBO Max, because things are starting to happen on this platform that we haven’t seen before on any other video-on-demand access service.

Warner Bros. recent moves by the revelations regarding HBO Max have caused significant consternation among viewers of the popular VOD service. They also exposed the real problem of removing original products overnight, which should ultimately be the core of the platform.

Recent changes to HBO Max expose the shortcomings of digital distribution in the context of film and series production [nc1]

Batman: The Animated Series and the new adventures of Batman will soon be available on the Polish version of HBO Max

As is known, months ago there was a merger of two giant companies – WarnerMedia and Discovery, which led to the creation of Warner Bros. Discovery under the leadership of David Zaslav. As a result of the merger of the two companies, the new leadership is now trying hard to find different forms of savings so Warner Bros. Discovery can finally go live. However, in recent months, more and more strange decisions have been made in order to save as much as possible and as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, HBO Max has had a bounce, with its reputation becoming more and more negative. HBO Max became the first service in which its parent company began to irrevocably remove original productions made by HBO.

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Recent changes to HBO Max expose the shortcomings of digital distribution in the context of film and series production [nc1]

The Last of Us just got its first HBO ad. The Post-Apocalypse series will debut on HBO Max in 2023

It first started with the Batgirl incident. Moving away from the question of casting or production quality (presumably the movie was too expensive to be released only on HBO Max, but at the same time too cheap to present itself well in cinemas), Warner Bros. Discovery decided to cancel production, which was practically at the end of preparations. The movie, which was created with HBO Max in mind, will eventually not be released on that platform. Later, there was a similar cancellation, but this time we’re talking about a production that was only in the making. We are talking about the animated series Batman: Caped Crusader, which was supposed to be the spiritual successor to the cartoon Batman: The Animated Series. However, the CEO of the company, David Zaslav, did not seem to be enough, so more radical measures were taken to save money (deleted and removed products can be tax-deductible, which in the case of such a company gives millions of dollars in returns, thus savings).

Recent changes to HBO Max expose the shortcomings of digital distribution in the context of film and series production [nc1]
As a result of Warner Bros.’s rescue. Discovery, Batgirl (which was also supposed to feature Michael Keaton’s Batman) will never see the light of day

HBO Max in its current form will go to the trash, and a new VOD service will be created in its place, combining content from HBO Max and Discovery +

We are mainly talking about the situation that happened with Westworld, one of HBO’s most popular original productions, which debuted in 2016 and has since had four seasons. A few weeks ago, it was reported that the fifth season (which was planned as a finale to the entire history of androids) would not materialize (due to high production costs, which are not reflected in the number of people who decide to watch the production on HBO Max). While it’s still somehow understandable to have the following episodes stalled, the decision to suddenly remove the remaining seasons of Westworld from HBO Max… whichever of the parent platform the production was created for (after all, HBO is to blame) seems to be strange. Westworld was first removed from VOD in the US overnight, and later also in other European countries. In Poland, the series has not been available since last Sunday.

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Recent changes to HBO Max expose the shortcomings of digital distribution in the context of film and series production [nc1]

Recent changes to HBO Max expose the shortcomings of digital distribution in the context of film and series production [nc1]
Westworld and Raised by Wolves are the unexpected victims of Warner Bros.’s recent budget cuts. Discovery… Cuts So Big That It’s Decided To Be Removed From HBO Max

Game of Thrones fully available on HBO Max in 4K resolution with HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos sound

what am i going The case of Westworld has shown that a company can remove its own productions from the VOD service without any scruples and not give time, for example, to finish watching. There were no clear warnings on the service that the series would be permanently removed from the platform at any moment, so I was very surprised when browsing the HBO Max show on Sunday, and was in vain to find Westworld there. However, this is not the only popular series that has been treated in this way. The same thing happened with the production of Raised by Wolves, executive produced by Ridley Scott. This sci-fi series will also not be found on HBO Max. So what happened to them? It turns out that (at least for now) the series can be watched on the player (which, by the way, also belongs to Warner Bros. Discovery), but you have to buy … an HBO package to be able to watch it. So there was a strange situation where when paying for an HBO Max subscription, we still had to buy the HBO package in Player in Poland in order to be able to watch what was deleted from HBO Max only a few days ago.

Recent changes to HBO Max expose the shortcomings of digital distribution in the context of film and series production [nc1]

Recent changes to HBO Max expose the shortcomings of digital distribution in the context of film and series production [nc1]
People who have physical versions of the Westworld series can watch the production whenever they want and without thinking about whether or not the series will be removed from the VOD platform. However, not everyone wants to spend more on physical media

HBO Max is already in Poland! We check the quality of apps on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Apple TV, smartphone and computer

This shows not only the frivolous treatment of subscription customers, but also the dangerous trend of deleting – without prior and clear advertising – their own products. Westworld today, what will go under the knife next? the last of us? Succession? game of thrones? In a situation like this, it’s hard not to acknowledge the superiority of the arguments used by fans of the classic and physical collections of movies and series. I belong to that group myself and in the case of Westworld I can play any episode of all four seasons at any time because I have them on UHD Blu-ray discs (much higher quality than what we got on HBO Max until the show went under the guillotine of the executives at Warner Bros. Discovery ). I’m not talking here about bragging about releasing my body. Because while the decision to remove the series didn’t affect me directly, I completely understand the outrage of all the people who paid the subscription, who, for example, just wanted to start watching Westworld or were in the process of watching the next episodes.

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Removing shows like Westworld and Raised by Wolves from HBO Max may not have been a one-time action by Warner Bros. Discovery. In such cases, owning physical media becomes a much more attractive option…and not just for fans of DVD, Blu-ray, or even Ultra HD Blu-ray (in some cases).

Recent changes to HBO Max expose the shortcomings of digital distribution in the context of film and series production [nc1]

At the moment, the HBO Max platform is being reorganized, which next year will merge with another service – Discovery +, to create a large HUB, possibly simply called MAX VOD. Given David Zaslav’s recent decisions, it’s hard to predict how many movies or original series (those already on the HBO Max platform or just being created) will actually live to see this merger of the two VOD services. Increasingly aggressive methods of searching for savings mean that one must now take into account the situation that subsequent series removal will begin without prior and clear notice to all subscribers. Such decisions can backfire for the company when people simply start abandoning the service, the quality of which they are no longer convinced of.