John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” has won HBO four consecutive Emmy Awards for Outstanding Variety Talk Series since its debut in April 2014, which means Oliver is probably the only one who could get away with publicly bashing HBO parent company WarnerMedia’s new streaming platform HBO Max. During the October 13 episode of “Last Week Tonight,” Oliver took aim at the new streaming service. HBO Max is launching next year and will join a crowded field of new streaming platforms such as Disney+, Apple TV+, and NBCUniversal’s service Peacock.
“Have you heard about HBO Max?” Oliver asked viewers. “Looking to add another app and monthly charge to watch things? HBO Max has you covered. It’s going to have all your favorites: Re-runs of ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ re-runs of ‘Friends,’ re-runs of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.’ You can pay for all of those through HBO max. HBO Max: It’s not HBO, it’s just TV.”
Oliver is clearly trying to create some distance between his flagship HBO network and the upcoming HBO Max, which despite sharing a similar name have nothing to do with each other content-wise or business-wise. WarnerMedia announced in July that HBO Max would be the name of its new streaming service, prompting some confusion about whether or not that meant there would be a crossover in content between the HBO network and the platform. That’s not the case, which HBO programming president Casey Bloys stressed at the TCA Press Conference over the summer. Bloys added he was “flattered” WarnerMedia was using the HBO name to brand its streaming service.
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WarnerMedia has been breaking the bank to buy high-demand content for HBO Max. The company spent a reported $425 million to own the streaming rights to “Friends” for five years. The NBC sitcom has called Netflix its home for years but will move to HBO Max in 2020. “The Big Bang Theory” streaming deal was even more massive. HBO Max got the rights to all 12 seasons of the CBS comedy hit in a deal estimated above $600 million.
HBO Max is launching in April 2020, several months after Apple TV+ and Disney+ go live. Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” airs Sunday nights on HBO.