In the past several months, upwards of 80 shows and movies have been quietly removed from the streaming platform HBO Max. Announcements of removals have been scarce with even show-runners not receiving prior notice for the removal of their shows. Attention was first drawn to this after the notorious cancellation of the mostly completed movie Batgirl, in the summer of 2022.
Originally speculated to be released sometime in the winter of 2022, the cancellation of Batgirl was announced in August 2022, after test screenings had already begun. With recent box office letdowns that were, like Batgirl, part of the DC Extended Universe, the reason behind Batgirl’s cancellation seems to be an attempt to potentially gain more money from tax returns by counting the unreleased movie as a loss than from its prospective box office sales and streaming viewership.
The mass upheaval of shows and movies can likely be attributed to the early 2022 finalization of the merger between Discovery and WarnerMedia, WarnerMedia being the company that owned HBO. The movement may have been in preparation for potential rebranding when HBO Max and Discovery+ also merge to become one streaming platform sometime this summer. However, many of the HBO owned movies and TV shows that were removed from HBO Max in 2022 had received no physical releases, effectively rendering many of them lost media at the time.
Currently, many of the shows and movies removed from HBO Max in 2022 have been accessible on Tubi since February of this year, with additional plans to move most of the rest to Roku sometime this spring. A select few can now be found on other platforms like Peacock, Hulu, and Apple TV. Still, even though the removed shows and movies were only temporarily inaccessible, this situation has raised valid questions and concerns for means of legal media preservation efforts as physical releases of shows and movies become more uncommon.