In 2023 we’ve seen a bunch of distributors who have over the past decade begun turning their licensing taps off to Netflix reverse course. In the case of HBO, the tap has been turned on for the first time, and in a recent interview with HBO and Max’s chief Casey Bloys, we got to learn the thinking behind licensing their shows to Netflix and whether more could be on the way.
To recap for anyone unfamiliar. Netflix has been receiving HBO shows since July with the likes of Insecure, Ballers, Band of Brothers, The Pacific, and others joining Netflix in multiple regions including the United States.
The shift to Warner Bros. Discovery (the parent company of HBO) moving to licensed has long been signaled by the company but that didn’t stop jaws dropping on the notion of HBO titles coming to Netflix.
Now, we’ve got some more flesh to the bone thanks to the Code Conference hosted by Vox Media. Among the guests to feature is Casey Bloys, the head of HBO and Max.
A host of topics were covered in the interview with Peter Kafka including artificial intelligence, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, HBO’s strategy, Max’s name change, cable bundles, and much more. Among the topics I was hoping to get more answers to was the Netflix licensing strategy and thankfully, we got plenty of answers.
Licensing to Netflix mirrors previous “windowing of content”
When asked about the decision to license to Netflix, Bloys said the “conventional wisdom” of having everything all in one place over the past decade but said things were changing to replicate windows from years prior. Of course, the logical reason for not selling to your competition in the past few years is that you’ll be helping your competition.
Bloys cited the syndication of many of its shows over the years referring to it as a “brass ring.” Sex and the City was an example given of a heavily syndicated show and Band of Brothers being sold off to the History Channel. He also cited the previous experiment of selling their programming to Prime Video in 2015.
Bloys implied this initial batch of titles to come to Netflix were “experiments” and given what was said it looks like it’s helped them, the shows, and Netflix.
Bloys was also keen to stress that any licensing arrangement would be a co-exclusive arrangement. That means we’re not going to be seeing any HBO Originals leaving Max for Netflix exclusively.
HBO shows are getting a boost on Max because of the addition to Netflix
“We had these discussions about what if we sold Insecure, Ballers. What’s been interesting about that is that first of all, Ballers went off the air over 10 years ago and it’s now number 7 on the Nielsen charts. What’s been nice about it is that without doing a thing on Max, the viewership or engagement of Insecure and Ballers has really seen a spike since it’s been on Netflix.”
That general popularity spike, particularly for Ballers, is something we wrote about here where you can see using multiple metrics beyond just viewership showing the title’s popularity growing since its arrival on Netflix on August 15th, 2023.
There are multiple reasons for this bump including the way that fresh content on Netflix particularly drives a lot of viewership at the top end of the charts.
Don’t expect Succession to stream on Netflix
While talking about the licensing of content, Bloys said he doubted we’ll see the licensing of the likes of recent smash hits for HBO whether that be in the form of Succession or The White Lotus.
One idea Kafka floated was licensing True Detective seasons 1 through 3 ahead of the season 4 premiere in 2024. Bloys responded, “For marketing purposes, it’s something we’ve thought about. If you have a new season of something does that make sense and the honest answer is, I don’t know, maybe. I think what you have to balance is not putting too much out there so that people just think ‘I’ll wait until it comes here’”.
You can find the full interview on Spotify (or other podcast apps) via the Recode Media with Peter Kafka podcast.
Would you like to see more HBO shows come to Netflix? Let us know which ones in the comments.