The Story Behind Warner Bros Discovery’s Great Purge of HBO Max and How Animation’s Suffering

People, we are living in a very dark period in the age of streaming, and it’s all thanks to Discovery. Rather, it’s thanks to the unholy fusion of Warner Bros and Discovery that, as of this writing, is desperately trying to throw overboard anything it can to save its sinking ship. The recent merger of the two companies has kickstarted the Great Purge of HBO Max, creating a situation that’s left no one happy. However, the worst part is that, once again, animation is getting the short end of the stick, and people are tired of it. Myself included!

The Beginning of the Purge

So, let’s provide a little context about this and how we got to this point in time. It all started earlier this year, when Warner Bros and Discovery went through with their planned merger, creating Warner Bros. Discovery. However, this new fusion faced problems right out the gate, as this left it with a debt numbering in the tens of billions of dollars. As a result, the new CEO, David Zaslav, has to find means to get out of that debt. It’s just that many of the choices being made …don’t look so great for him.

It started off with the upcoming Batgirl movie. Despite costing $70 million and nearing post-production, Warner Bros pulled the plug. According to insider sources, this was so they could recoup the losses as tax write-offs. In addition, a planned holiday sequel to the animated film Scoob! got canned, as well. They were the first casualties of the Great Purge.

The Great HBO Max Purge Begins

In the weeks since then, things have only gotten worse for HBO Max. Far, far worse. Last week, HBO Max announced that they would be pulling three dozen shows and original programming from their service. However, people were shocked to discover that among them were shows that could only be legally watched on HBO Max. Show’s like Owen Dennis’ hit animated anthology Infinity Train, whose cancellation I discussed in a previous post, or J.G Quintel’s Close Enough. Both shows got canceled before their time, and now, before the week was out, both would be unavailable on HBO Max. 

Even more shows from Cartoon Network got purged, as well. OK K.O. Let’s Be HeroesUncle GrandpaSummer Camp IslandMao Mao, Heroes of Pure Heart, and more fell victim. Then, to add insult to injury, any and all mention of Infinity Train got wiped off of Warner Bro’s social media. Every tweet and video clip from the show on their official YouTube channels gone in a flash. They even got rid of the soundtrack on iTunes! The only thing left was a single episode of Uncle Grandpa, defiantly clinging on to life on HBO Max.

Why This is Happening?

So, I don’t entirely understand why they’re doing this myself, but from what I’ve heard, it has to do with paying residuals or royalties. After a show’s put on TV or a streaming service, the people who worked on it will get residual payments for their work on it for the next several years. It’s how they make money off of it even after it’s ended. The main problem in the animation industry is that this doesn’t even go directly to the people who worked on it. It goes to their healthcare. In other words, Warner Bros Discovery hoped it could save a few million by skipping out on what it owes the people who worked on those shows. However, this is only a small fraction of the debt that it got thanks to Discovery, so the decision doesn’t make sense. 

Understandably, these actions have left people, both on the public and business sides, extremely angry. Fans have been protesting about this nonstop on social media. The creators of many of those show’s, including Owen Dennis, the creator of Infinity Train, have made it clear that they were given no warning about this whatsoever. From many people’s perspectives, it feels like Discovery disregarded the work and efforts of countless people who are now paying the price for their mistakes.

It’s an incredibly tragic moment in the history of streaming and one that could negatively impact HBO Max as it prepares to merge with Discovery+ in the next year or so. If the detractors on YouTube have their way, they could convince millions of people to cancel their subscriptions to HBO Max in protest of this action. And since they just launched House of the Dragon, the time couldn’t be worse for the platform.

Take a Stand, Don’t Let Discovery Do this

As someone who’s long championed the use of animation as a medium of story-telling, the Great HBO Max Purge deeply saddens me. I understand that Warner Bros needs to recoup its losses due to the merger, which means they have to make tough calls. However, the way they’re handling all of this is incredibly sleazy and leaves everyone upset at them. The fans, creators, the people who work on these shows, and even some of the higher-ups are against what’s happened, and it’s messed up. 

To be clear, I’m not blaming the Warner Bros half for this debacle. From what we’ve heard from the inside, the people at Cartoon Network opposed this; they’re still opposing this purge. The villain here is Discovery and the people who fail to see they’re doing more harm than good. So please, if you care about animation and want to see the brilliant people who make it keep making a living, spread the word about this. Don’t let Warner Bros Discovery get away with this because it’s not okay.