SkyShowtime, the European streamer jointly-operated by Comcast and Paramount, has acquired the exclusive streaming rights to 21 local-language HBO max shows.
The rights to the shows became available following the merger between Warner Bros. Discovery in April 2022 and the subsequent content cull by CEO David Zaslav aimed at contributing to the company’s $3.5bn savings target.
As reported by Business Review, the deal in total “provides SkyShowtime 168 episodes—over 150 hours—of new and previously aired original programming.”
The new shows will be branded SkyShowtime Originals and include: ‘D’ (Finland and Sweden), ‘The Winner’ (Czechia and Slovakia) ‘Warszawianka’ (Poland), ‘Por H o Por B’, season 1 and the premiere of season 2 (Spain), ‘Beartown’ (Sweden), ‘Beforeigners’ (Norway), ‘Kamikaze’ (Denmark), ‘Lust’ (Sweden) ‘The Informant’ (Hungary) and more.
Why has HBO Max offloaded its European content?
In an economic downturn in which businesses are focused on profit over subscriber numbers, Zaslav’s current strategy is to remove content that isn’t engaging audiences on HBO Max in its current format, and monetize it by licensing it out.
In future, the combined HBO Max Discovery+ platform (set to launch later this year) complete with a new free ad-supported service, will be able to maximize the value of existing content within its own ecosystem. HBO Max has the big hitters – Golden Globe-winning House of the Dragon, White Lotus and Euphoria – that can attract viewers, while Discovery+ has the type of lean back (filler) content that can retain them. In lieu of the HBO Max Discovery+ integration and the launch of its own FAST service, Zaslav is wringing as much value out of the content as possible in a bid to, in his own words, "maximize long term shareholder and asset value, not just subs.”
What does this mean for HBO Max in Europe?
Warner Brothers Discovery has stressed it remains committed to European content. And as FAST ramps up in Europe, this has to be true. The new HBO Discovery+ platform will roll out in the US first, followed by Latin America and then HBO Max’s European markets as early as 2024.
When it does, there will be a renewed focus on creating either local-language shows or big hitters with global appeal to pull in viewers, then localizing ‘lean back viewing’ content that can retain them. Until then, it makes strategic sense to increase the value of comparatively underperforming European content by licensing it out and focus on, as Zaslav says, "refining what the right windowing and distribution model is...to maximise audience and profitability."