HBO Max Yanking Access to ‘Westworld’ Among Other Content Off Streaming Service

When Warner Bros. Discovery announced last month that it would cancel critically-acclaimed (54 Emmy nominations) sci-fi western drama, “Westworld” after four seasons, the news was unsurprising in light of the show’s dwindling ratings.

Now the media giant is yanking access to the show — about a futuristic adult theme park with android robots catering to client fantasies — and other content completely from HBO Max, the company’s flagship streaming video platform in an effort to reduce residual payments. Other programs impacted by cutbacks include Victorian sci-fi drama “The Nevers,” romantic comedy “Love Life,” and 1970s-themed feminist comedy “The Minx.” They join recently axed shows “The Gordita Chronicles,” “FBoy Island,” “Legendary” and “Los Espookys.”

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On the company’s November month’s fiscal call, David Zaslav, the CEO of WBD tasked with cutting more than $3.5 billion in operating cost synergies following the merger between Discovery and WarnerMedia, claimed that 60% of HBO’s content was not being watched.

“There’s 15 or 20 series that are loved and used and are nourishing the audience on a regular basis,” Zaslav said. “But then there’s a huge number of series and movies that aren’t being used at all.”

Where that content could possibly end up is on a planned ad-supported VOD platform launching in 2023, or distributed to third-party services.

“If none of it is being used, why aren’t we putting it on an AVOD, where it will be used?” Zaslav asked. “What we’re really trying to understand is, what has worked on the platform, and what hasn’t, and then based on that, we’ll determine how to operate going forward.”

Samba TV: ‘Westworld’ Season 4 Premiere Lagged Behind Other Pandemic-Delayed HBO Programs

Due to the pandemic, it’s been two years since there was a new season of HBO/HBO Max’s dystopian series “Westworld.” The June 26 debut of season four generated 915,000 U.S. households during the live plus three-day window, according to data from Samba TV. That was down 46% from the 1.7 million multi-platform viewers for the debut of season three.

Samba, which says it tracks an addressable footprint of 46 million opted-in devices worldwide, said the season four premiere lagged significantly behind the debuts of two other high-profile HBO programs also delayed by the pandemic.

The research firm said 1.3 million U.S. households watched the second season launch of “Euphoria” during the L+3D window, while 1.2 million U.S. households watched the third season debut of Succession 301 during the L+3D window.

“[The return of ‘Westworld’] to HBO and HBO Max after more than a two-year hiatus … fell short of several other HBO original programming also paused during the pandemic,” Cole Strain, VP of measurement products at Samba TV, said in a statement.

The decline in “Westworld” viewership appears to be a trend. Separate data found that an average of 810,000 viewers watched the third season. The first season was the show’s most popular, with 1.82 million average total viewers and a 0.8 rating within the 18 to 49 demographic, according to Statista. Ratings dropped each season, with the 18-49 rating for the third season.

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Merchandising: ‘Mulan’ Makes Its Way to Retail

Disney released its live-action Mulan on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Nov. 10, having announced the street date just four days before. The film famously bypassed theatrical distribution due to the coronavirus pandemic in lieu of several PVOD options tested by the studio.

The disc version arrived with a couple of retailers offering the typical kind of exclusive editions they usually do.

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At Target, the Mulan 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack was offered as a limited-edition with a pack-in gallery book for $34.99.

Best Buy offered its usual Steelbook edition for Mulan, with a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack priced at $34.99.

Best Buy’ ‘Mulan’ 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steelbook

Interestingly, discs of the new Mulan were not listed at prior to their release date, and even after, the only copies that show up in searches are offered by third-party sellers.

Among other promotions, Best Buy is giving fans of HBO’s “Westworld” a chance to preorder the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steelbook of the third season and get Steelbooks of the first two seasons for $9.99 each. According to the Best Buy website, however, the season one Steelbook is sold out. The season three Steelbook is listed with a Dec. 8 street date, although the non-exclusive versions of the season arrive in all stores Nov. 17.

Target was running a buy-two-get-one-free mix-and-match deal with movies, books, music, video games, board games and craft activities.


Season Three of HBO’s ‘Westworld’ on Disc Nov. 17

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Westworld: Season Three — The New World on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack Nov. 17 (order date Oct. 13).

The latest eight episodes of the HBO series pick up following last season’s massacre in the Westworld theme park, as hosts Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), Maeve (Thandie Newton), Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) have left the park and explore the real world to discover who they will become in the wake of their liberation. Returning cast members also include Ed Harris, Luke Hemsworth and Simon Quarterman. Joining the cast this season are Aaron Paul, Vincent Cassel, Lena Waithe, Scott Mescudi, Marshawn Lynch, John Gallagher Jr., Michael Ealy and Tommy Flanagan.

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The Blu-ray editions will include a digital copy of the episodes. The 4K Ultra HD discs of Westworld: Season Three will feature Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos soundtracks.

The discs will include more than two hours of bonus featurettes:

  • We Live in a Technocracy (exclusive to disc)
  • Rico (exclusive to disc)
  • A Vision for the Future (exclusive to disc)
  • Westworld on Location (home entertainment exclusive)
  • Escape from Westworld
  • Exploring War World
  • Creating Westworld’s Reality: Parce Domine
  • Creating Westworld’s Reality: The Absence of Field
  • Creating Westworld’s Reality: The Mother of Exiles
  • Creating Westworld’s Reality: Genre
  • Creating Westworld’s Reality: Decoherence
  • Creating Westworld’s Reality: Passed Pawn
  • Creating Westworld’s Reality: Crisis Theory
  • Welcome to Westworld: Evan Rachel Wood & Aaron Paul – Analysis
  • Welcome to Westworld: Evan Rachel Wood & Aaron Paul – Who Said It?
  • Welcome to Westworld: Thandie Newton & Tessa Thompson – Analysis
  • Welcome to Westworld: Thandie Newton & Tessa Thompson – Who Said It?


Wither HBO Now?

With WarnerMedia launching a branded subscription streaming video platform next year that will incorporate original and catalog content from HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner, in addition to third-party providers, the question arises: What will become of standalone SVOD service HBO Now?

Launched in 2014, HBO Now topped 5 million subscribers earlier this year. WarnerMedia is wrapping much of its unnamed OTT product around the HBO brand, with tiers of service ranging from studio movies to original series such as “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld,” among others.

Speaking Dec. 4 at the UBS 46th Annual Global Media and Communications confab in New York, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson reiterated that the WarnerMedia streaming platform would not be another Netflix — focusing instead on Warner, HBO and Turner content.

“The goal of [CEO] John Stankey and WarnerMedia is not to create a direct-to-consumer product that rivals Netflix in terms of being a warehouse of content,” he said, adding that traditional pay-TV business models distributing wholesale content are old-school.

“Those businesses are getting disrupted aggressively,” Stephenson said.

The executive said the market needs an OTT product that “can achieve a very high penetration of [WarnerMedia] content with audiences.”

And HBO — via HBO Now — has its foot in the door.

“All media companies are coming to grips with the reality to better establish a direct relationship with [their] audiences,” Stephenson said. And with more than 140 million pay-TV subscribers globally, HBO resonates.

“I once compared Netflix to Walmart — not derogatorily … but when I’m shopping [and] I need something … I go to Walmart,” Stephenson said. “Well, if you’re looking for video content, regardless what it is, people will go to Netflix because it is just a warehouse. And it’s an impressive warehouse. That is not our ambition.”

Stephenson said management recognizes the need to ramp up original content spending at HBO — infusing the platform with year-long new offerings in addition to platform investment.

“[HBO boss] Richard Plepler is pretty excited,” Stephenson said. “He knows how to put together programming that will attract audiences. We’re very confident we’re going to have an HBO product that’s more fulsome.”

With WarnerMedia representing 17% of AT&T’s profitability, Stephenson said Warner Bros. remains a significant creator of TV content — including producing 70 scripted TV series in the past year to third parties including Netflix.

The executive mentioned Netflix had resigned license rights to Warner Bros.’ venerable sitcom “Friends” on a non-exclusive basis.

“That means ‘Friends’ can go onto our platform as well,” Stephenson said.

“We think we have enough IP and capability we can put together a product that will be very attractive,” he said. “It’s not a pervasive library of content warehouse like Netflix, but we think it is a very impressive product that will achieve very high penetration. Expectations are very high for this product.”

Amazon’s ‘Mrs. Maisel,’ HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ Lead Way at 70th Emmys

For the second year in a row, a show from a streaming service won the Emmy for best series in its category.

While last year Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” won Outstanding Drama Series, this year it was Amazon Video taking the top prize in the Outstanding Comedy Series category with the first season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

“Maisel” ended up with eight Emmys, including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Rachel Brosnahan as the title character, and Outstanding Supporting Actress for Alex Borstein (who won another Emmy this year for her voiceover work on Fox’s “Family Guy”).

The 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards were announced Sept. 17 at a televised ceremony in Los Angeles and at the Creative Arts ceremony a week earlier.

Netflix and HBO ended up tied as the top networks with 23 wins apiece.

Outstanding Drama Series again went to HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” this time for its seventh season, which is readily available for digital download or on Blu-ray and DVD.

“Game of Thrones” previously won the Best Drama Series Emmy in 2015 and 2016 for its fifth and sixth seasons, respectively, but a quirk in its production meant the show didn’t air during the 2017 eligibility period, opening the door for “Handmaid’s Tale” to win last year.

“Thrones” won nine Emmys this year, including Peter Dinklage winning his third trophy for Outstanding Supporting Actor for the role of Tyrion Lannister (previously won in 2011 and 2015).

FX’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story won seven Emmys, including Outstanding Limited Series. The nine-episode miniseries is available for digital download.

Among some other notable categories, HBO’s “Barry” (on DVD Oct. 2) won Outstanding Actor and Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for Bill Hader and Henry Winkler, respectively. Matthew Rhys won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for the sixth and final season of FX’s “The Americans,” coming to DVD Oct. 23 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Claire Foy won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for playing Queen Elizabeth II in the second season of Netflix’s “The Crown.” And Thandie Newton won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for season two of HBO’s “Westworld,” which will be available on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Dec. 4 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

For a complete list of 2018 winners, visit

Second Season of ‘Westworld’ on Disc Dec. 4

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Westworld: Season Two — The Door on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray on Dec. 4.

The HBO series was recently nominated for 21 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series.

In the 10-episode second season, the futuristic theme park’s robotic hosts have become aware of their existence and plot their liberation and retaliation against humankind. The cast includes Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden and Tessa Thompson.

The season will be released through digital channels July 23 with new bonus content. The Blu-ray editions will also include a digital copy of the season.

Digital and Blu-ray extras include three “Bring Yourself Back Online” featurettes: “Reflections on Season Two — Dolores, Teddy and Bernard; “Of Love and Shogun — Maeve, Hector and Lee”; and “Journeys and Technology — Stubbs, Logan and Clementine.” Also included will be the featurettes “The Buzz: On the Red Carpet” and “Return To Westworld.” Additional featurettes will be grouped under “Creating Westworld’s Reality” — “An Evocative Location,” “Fort Forlorn Hope,” “The Delos Experiment,” “Shogun World,” “Inside the Cradle,” “Chaos In The Mesa,” “Ghost Nation,” “Deconstructing Maeve,” “The Valley Beyond” and ‘The Drone Hosts.”

The Blu-ray will also include the featurettes “Paved With the Best Intentions: The Evolution of the DELOS Corp.” and “Violent Delights Have Violent .”

The limited-edition UHD Blu-ray will feature Dolby Vision. The UHD and Blu-ray editions will feature Dolby Atmos soundtracks remixed specifically for the home theater environment.