If you noticed that a number of movies and series are missing on HBO Max, that is not due to a technical issue but is part of the streamer’s deliberate move to get rid of its low-engagement titles, including original content.
Why is HBO Max removing low-engagement titles?
Owned by the recently formed Warner Bros. Discovery, HBO Max has recently been removing several films and TV shows from its catalog to cut costs and prepare for a shift in overall content strategy ahead of its merger with its sister streaming service, Discovery+, next summer.
Just because a movie or a series is already streaming on a platform, it doesn’t mean that the streaming service is no longer spending money to keep it on its catalog. Unbeknown to many, streamers still pay residuals to casts and crews of a production if they intend to keep their content in their library. And a source familiar with HBO Max’s decision to remove several titles from its service told CNN Business that the streamer will save “north of $100 million annually” after getting rid of its low-engagement content.
That amount of money is a big help for Warner Bros. Discovery to meet its promise to its investors to cut a total of $3 billion in costs at the company.
“Keeping titles on a platform comes with a cost,” Julia Alexander, director of strategy at Parrot Analytics, told CNN Business. “Does a title bring in more value to the platform than its cost? If the answer is no, and especially if that title is a low engagement title, which many of these are, then removing titles can benefit a company’s bottom line.”
A rep for HBO Max also offered an explanation for the removal of so many titles from the streamer. While the spokesperson didn’t mention anything about cost-cutting, the rep did confirm that it’s a preparation for the upcoming merger of HBO Max and Discovery+.
“As we work toward bringing our content catalogs together under one platform, we will be making changes to the content offering available on both HBO Max and Discovery+,” the spokesperson told CNN Business. “That will include the removal of some content from both platforms.”
Titles leaving HBO Max
HBO Max has been getting rid of titles – even originals – that subscribers are not watching. According to CNN Business, these titles include shows like Generation, Infinity Train, Vinyl, and The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo. Also in the children’s shows category, the streamer removed 200 episodes of Sesame Street, much to the disappointment of parents looking for educational shows for their kids to watch.
The removal of so many kids’ series from HBO Max isn’t surprising, as Alexander told CNN Business that the streamer wants to focus more on its strengths like HBO’s adult dramas and Warner Bros. films than further investing in children’s shows.
“Right now, WBD’s two main priorities are driving growth while cutting down on costs,” Alexander explained. “Kids programming is an area that top players like Netflix, Apple, Disney, and Amazon are already invested in, while YouTube maintains the majority of that audience’s attention.”
How will the removal of so many titles affect HBO Max?
It’s unclear how the removal of so many titles from HBO Max will affect the overall profitability of the streamer, because while streaming “is fundamentally where everything is headed,” Alexander said that its future is “still being determined.”
Alexander added that while the cable is declining and broadband is expanding, the future of streaming will not be one size fits all. In the end, it is the viewers who will play a huge role in shaping the next era of streaming. “The audience is, and always has been, king,” explained Alexander.