Canceled HBO series like Westworld are going to have a new home on the ad-supported FAST Services platform.
HBO Max has had several hit streaming series removed recently, and the latest casualty is Westworld. Fortunately, that show and many others pulled from HBO Max will be moving to the third-party FAST Services platform (which may be a new player in fan efforts to save the show). And HBO will be licensing out other pulled shows as well, and they may appear on other streaming platforms besides FAST Services.
Why are these shows (including very high-profile shows like Westworld) getting pulled from HBO Max in the first place? The short answer is that this helps to cut costs, and this has been particularly important to management in the wake of the Warner Bros. and Discovery merger. In some cases, entire movies such as Batgirl were shelved before they could be released, so at least FAST Services will be providing a way for viewers to keep streaming some of their favorite content rather than having it disappear forever.
Unfortunately, Westworld is only the latest show to be pulled from the platform entirely. In recent days, viewers have lost access to shows like The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Nevers, FBoy Island, Raised By Wolves, Head of the Class, Finding Magic Mike, and Legendary. We also know that Love Life and Gordita Chronicles are getting pulled as well, but they are not yet licensed out to FAST Services or any other platforms.
Right now, it seems that HBO is trying to pull off a very delicate balancing act. Pulling all of these shows from HBO Max helps to save money in various ways, but it also threatens their brand by effectively diminishing the value of HBO Max to subscribers. By licensing shows to FAST Services, HBO may be able to make money via old-fashioned licensing and unexpected partnerships while still cutting costs on its end.
And in the case of Westworld, you could argue that the show has been going downhill for a long time now. The first season brought critical acclaim and made the show an instant hit, but the second season brought diminishing returns. And the third and fourth seasons of the show seem more like extended Black Mirror episodes than what we came to expect from Westworld (even though the designs are cool), so we expect many FAST Services users to skip those seasons entirely.
Regardless of the quality of Westworld, though, it’s fair to say that HBO is playing a very dangerous game here. Every show is somebody’s favorite, and yanking so many shows from the platform in such short order may lead to an exodus of subscribed users. Considering that HBO refuses to sell some of the pulled shows as physical media, it is also creating an environment where users may be likelier to simply pirate shows rather than watch them on either HBO Max or FAST Services.
At any rate, the long-term future for these shows, their creators, and HBO Max itself (right down to its new name) is unknown. So far, Warner Bros. has weathered the storm of controversy and criticism that its recent decisions have brought about. But licensing out some of its most famous shows to FAST Services and other streamers may be enough to completely destroy the once-incredible momentum that HBO Max previously had.