It’s a bloodbath at HBO as the cost cutting continues and anything not measuring up in terms of performance is kicked to the kerb, like my first marriage. The big news, of course, is HBO dropping the axe on the fifth season of Westworld.
Deadline now reports that the cast get paid anyway as their options were renewed before season 4 aired and this locked in pay-or-play deals. So better a Westworld cast member than Twitter employee. This will cost HBO up to $15 million.
The viewing numbers had been on the slide since season 1 and the costs were high, at up to $100 million a season.
The cancellation decision reportedly came down to an issue of viewership vs. cost – the show’s ratings have declined steadily throughout its run.
That is not all that has been chopped at HBO. HBO Max had already ordered a new Degrassi series. The ten episodes of a revival of the Canadian high school drama has been canned just as it was being developed. An animated Charlotte’s Web miniseries co-produced by Sesame Workshop is also cancelled.
Into this arena steps President and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav, who says the days of unlimited streaming budgets are gone and stated on the quarterly earnings call that “the grand experiment of creating something at any cost is over”. That’s not all, he said:
“I was recently asked if I thought the golden age of content was over. I said absolutely not. There’s nothing more important than content, people consuming more content than they ever have. But it has to be great content. It’s no longer about how much… [the] strategy to collapse all windows, start linear and theatrical and spend money with abandon, while making a fraction in return… is deeply flawed”
He’s told Warner Bros. Discovery to find another $500 million in savings, upping the target to $3.5 billion. Warner Bros Discovery streaming and games CEO JB Perrette has indicated prices could be going up for the streamer and that the ad load could increase on the lowest tier, ad supported level.