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HBO does defer John Oliver to YouTube, hoping to attract more Max subscribers. Will it work?

John Oliver hosts “Last Week Tonight” on HBO every Sunday night. But if you missed it, that’s okay. You could watch it the following day on YouTube. It’s a bargain for viewers who have the opportunity to watch the show even if they don’t have cable TV or a Max subscription.

Now Warner Bros. Discovery is here for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver to pick it up from YouTube. Or rather, delay it until Thursday. WBD hopes that this will get you to subscribe to Max.

John Oliver on X wrote about it:

John Oliver seems unhappy about this turn of events, writing, “I hope they change their minds”. This is understandable because, as a host, he is not interested in the number of subscriptions to Max but in the benefits of a larger audience, which makes him better known and gives him a larger audience.

When Last Week Tonight With John Oliver premiered on HBO, the convenience of watching on Max did not exist, so YouTube allowed flexible viewing for the main story and promotional exposure,” an HBO spokesperson tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We are now delaying that availability and hope those fans choose to watch the entire show on Max.”

Variety received a similar response, which seems like an excuse that Warner Bros. Discovery uses to extinguish discontent. Their statement is primarily about convenience as if they didn’t have a place to watch the show online before, but now that Max has made its way from HBO, Max has such a place. In fact, that’s what it seems to be – a somewhat naive explanation that in no way reveals why such a decision was made now.

When I asked the HBO representative involved in the decision, “Do you believe this will help bring more subscribers to Max?” they told me, “We don’t have clear numbers. But we know that for many people, it’s a staple for their Monday morning, so some will probably subscribe to Max.”

This comes amid WBD’s attempts to cut costs as much as possible and increase revenues, including making streaming Max profitable. It is currently unprofitable, but WBD hopes to fix that by attracting more subscribers. Part of that effort is to limit the distribution of original content on YouTube, which goes against Late Night Show competitors who publish clips from the show on YouTube following its release on cable TV.

One of Last Week Toonight’s problems is that it is published on YouTube without advertising support, unlike competitors like “The Daily Show” and “Saturday Night Live,” which have monetization on YouTube that brings in advertising revenue, albeit small.

Will it help Max attract more subscribers?

That’s the crux of this decision, which has caused fury and misunderstanding among many fans of John Oliver and his late-night show. Many say, “It won’t make me sign up for Max,” or “Sorry, John, I’ll just do without your show”. And many of those who already had a subscription to Max say they watched on YouTube because it was more convenient, even though they already paid every month. Some are even particularly disappointed and say they’ll cancel Max.

Humor shows are built around the fact that they comment on heated events (usually), so they lose relevance quickly. So postponing it for almost 5 days seems like a bad idea; there’s a chance it will lose relevance.

But it's unlikely to help attract new subscribers. With all due respect to Oliver, a YouTube clip of his show is about 30 minutes of viewing time, even if it is funny. And it's not the kind of offering that will get many people a Max subscription. More than likely it won't. But YouTube had one important thing going for it: allowing people to share a fresh episode in a couple of clicks, increasing the show's reach and interest in it. Now it will be delayed, and those sharing links on Thursday to a show aired on Monday will look a little laggy.

So, it's probably not the best solution and unlikely to convert to many Max subscriptions. And even less likely to affect other late-night shows.



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