Westworld has become the latest casualty of Warner Bros. Discovery’s scorched earth tactics.
Since the merger between Warner Bros. and Discovery, the conglomeration has courted controversy after controversy. Rumors that this merger was merely the first step in creating a superpower to rival Disney abound.
Plus, they cancelled completed films like Batgirl. By August, they had wiped 68 shows, many from existence.
Yes, wiped from existence. See, when Warner Bros. removes its works, it isn’t doing what other streaming services like Netflix do. Instead, they deleted the files from the servers, which means these movies and shows are gone forever. You can’t rewatch them. They’ll never appear on another streaming platform. They’re just gone.
Westworld’s Fall From GraceWestworld premiered in October 2016 to much fanfare. The first season was wild in the best possible way. The twists were hard to predict, but earned; the graphic violence seemed to add depth to the themes rather than distract from them. It won numerous awards, and was compared favorably with the then-strong Game of Thrones.
Granted, no follow-up season ever reached the heights of season one with critics or audiences. In fact, it really wasn’t a shock that HOB cancelled Westworld earlier this year.
Still, no one expected it HBO Max to remove it anytime soon. The first season works well as a standalone, after all. Yet on December 12, news broke that HBO Max plans to remove it, although Deadline reports that there’s reason to believe Westworld will not be removed from existence.
What Shows Share Westworld’s Fate?Westworld isn’t the only show unceremoniously shoved under the axe. Joss Whedon’s The Nevers and Anna Kendrick’s Love Life also face the chopping block, as does Minx, another HBO original.
Weirdly, HBO previously renewed both The Nevers and Minx. The Nevers only aired the first part of its first season, with the second part expected to follow this very month. HBO also renewed Minx for a second season in May. Guess they changed their minds.
At least for now, The Nevers‘ finished episodes might air somewhere else. Still, no confirmation exist. HBO distancing itself from Whedon isn’t necessarily surprising given his controversies of late. Yet doing it this way creates more controversy, not less.
Why Are They Removing Westworld?Despite the lackluster recent seasons of Westworld, removing it seems a drastic step. After all, if HBO Max really wants to hide its storytelling failures, why not kick Game of Thrones season eight to the curb? Fans might even be happy about that.
Well, the honest answer is probably the expected one: money. It all comes down to the bottom line, and Warner Bros. Discovery is financially struggling. In April 2022, CEO David Zaslav announced a three billion dollar cut. At the time, he mentioned “consolidating” streaming services, not wiping them.
While leaving more shows up might seem like it’d rake in more cash, that’s not necessarily true. In actuality, Warner Bros. Discovery might then need to pay residuals to the actors, writers, directors, etc. You can’t compensate the people who actually made your content for their hard work if you’re not profiting off the content, after all. Hence, Zaslav likely made these cuts to help save that three billion.
To be fair, it looks like Warner Bros. Discovery might not have said finances at the moment. At the same time, there’s also no doubt this leaves a bad taste in the mouths of creatives and fans.
Physical Media: The Answer?Of course, all of this kindles a discussion about the value of physical media. If you buy a movie virtually or pay for a streaming service, you don’t technically own it yourself. That intermediary corporation dangles you at its mercy.
This is quite a change from the days of owning DVDs, BluRays, and even VHS tapes of favorite films and shows.
Buying Westworld on BluRay works well for now. However, HBO Max originals don’t always come in physical forms. When the head honchoes remove these shows, they erase them completely.
In truth, HBO Max isn’t the only company that doesn’t release physical copies of its original work. Netflix does that too. At the same time, Netflix doesn’t wipe its stuff from existence. (Please don’t start now, Netflix!)
The potential erasure of favorite shows only shines a tempting light on filmmaking’s longtime enemy: piracy. You wouldn’t steal a movie, intones the old ad before a movie came on. What if the only copy of said movie will burn if you don’t?
Of course, we’re not endorsing piracy. People deserve to be paid for their hard work creating art (see below).
However, we live in a society. HBO Max needs to consider piracy as a reality. If they continue to wipe people’s beloved media out of existence, it stands to reason that people will turn to other methods of getting that media. Hence, HBO Max could undercut its whole logic and lose money.
Drastic? Maybe. However, Batgirl’s directors tried to copy their film before the servers completely erased it. Unfortunately, they didn’t succeed.