Should Networks Keep Or Sell Streaming TV Shows? An Old Story With New Tricks

Warner Bros. Discovery's decision to take off some big HBO Max shows and movies -- now totaling 81 -- and sell them to other marketers and platforms seem to fly in the face of the  billion-dollar efforts to support all things for their owned streamers' services.

This harks back to when NBCUniversal was starting up Peacock and when then-Warner Media was launching HBO Max.

NBCU at that time was desperate to get back reruns of “The Office," while Warner Media wanted to do the same for “Friends.” Those two shows, respectively, were going to be key library components of those services.

But now, it seems there are overlap and “frenemy” issues when it comes to production ownership and distribution -- at least potential ones.



For example, Netflix's big new hit “Wednesday” came out of MGM Television. Then in March 2022, Amazon -- which owns Prime Video -- closed a $8.45 billion deal to buy MGM Studios. It turns out that Netflix is safe -- at least for a couple of seasons, since its deal for the show included options for additional seasons beyond its first year of production.

It’s becoming more confusing for Peacock, which has the streaming rights to “Yellowstone” -- a show that airs on the cable channel, the Paramount Network, a sister service of Paramount+.

If this seems strange, it should not -- given the recent history of TV production and first-run distribution of TV shows. TV networks regularly bought shows from competing TV production studios that also owned TV networks. (The major odd-studio out for some time has been Sony Pictures Television, which has never owned a major U.S. TV network.)

But over the last decade or so, TV networks and their media companies have expanded and pushed to own and distribute most, if not all, of their produced content -- especially in the U.S. -- in order to benefit from ad revenues for their respective owned cable TV networks or national syndication ad revenue from shows on TV stations.

Warner Bros. Discovery is taking shows off of HBO Max to sell to possible competitors to make more money -- especially those that are in reruns and not in production. This list includes “Westworld,” “The Nevers” and “Love Life.” 

Looking at it in granular terms, WBD doesn't believe the value of those shows is all that good on HBO Max from whatever monthly subscriptions and limited advertising revenues is estimated to get from those shows.

And we know this -- all premium streamers from legacy TV-based media selling companies are losing money... still in the billions of dollars.

This makes you wonder about the lesser excitement now in the premium streaming world. Exactly. There is a long way to go. This stream is a slow-moving creek. 


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