David Zaslav’s Next Big TV Licensing Pivot Begins

Westworld, once considered a prized piece of HBO’s portfolio, has become the poster child for how the David Zaslav-run Warner Bros. Discovery is trying to get its cash flowing again. The quasianthology series from Lisa Joy and Jonah Nolan is being removed from HBO Max as sources say that Warner Bros. Discovery execs are seeking new ways to monetize the drama, whose fourth and now final season clocked in north of $160 million.

The company said Dec. 14 that a number of canceled HBO and HBO Max programs will be packaged in a new bundle to be sold to third-party streaming services that are free and ad-supported. Those shows include Westworld and The Nevers, as well as FBoy Island, Legendary, The Time Traveler’s Wife and Raised by Wolves.

Meanwhile, a number of other shows will come off the HBO Max platform as WBD looks for license partnerships. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that HBO floated the idea of producing a fifth season of Westworld for the WBD FAST platform, but showrunners Joy and Nolan were not eager to produce the show for a service that would have required a substantially lower budget.

“The FAST service would allow them to have their cake and eat it, too,” notes one of the sources. “Get the write-off of pulling the show from the main service and do something new with it, too.”

HBO’s decision to pull Westworld comes as Warner Bros. Discovery is reversing renewals and pulling other shows off its platform as part of a larger bid to cut costs across the company, including write-offs and impairments related to content and development costs of $2.8 billion to $3.5 billion, up from $2 billion to $2.5 billion.

It’s easier to find a new home for a show like Westworld (produced in-house by Warner Bros. TV) than Minx, the risqué Lionsgate TV comedy that HBO renewed in May. With Minx, sources say that HBO was interested in putting the well-reviewed series starring Jake Johnson, about the creation of the first erotic magazine for women, on its FAST platform, but the show’s Lionsgate TV ownership (not to mention mature content) was a roadblock. With only 10 days of production remaining, HBO will foot the bill for the just-completed season two as Lionsgate TV shops both seasons.

This story first appeared in the Dec. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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