Sufferin' Succotash! Zaslav's Dismantling of HBO Max Continues With Takedown of 256 Looney Tunes Shorts

Looney Tunes
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Discovery)

Rabbit season! 

Duck season!

HBO Max season!

According to enthusiast's social-news outlet The Cartoon News (opens in new tab), seasons 16-31 of the iconic Looney Tunes series of cartoon shorts have been taken down from HBO Max. 

In all, 256 episodes of the 511 Looney Tunes series installments have been removed from the SVOD service. HBO Max parent Warner Bros. Discovery hasn’t yet officially commented on the removal of the programming. 

In an effort to cut residual and royalty costs, heavily leveraged WBD has been aggressively removing iconic brands from HBO Max recently. Several weeks ago, for example, the company took down Westworld, an HBO original series that has been nominated for 54 Emmy Awards, from the streaming service. 

Previously, a finished $90 million original film set to debut on HBO Max, Batgirl, was buried deep underground for write-off purposes. Iconic kids‘ show Sesame Street also had its episode count trimmed on the SVOD platform. These are but a few of the shows taken off HBO Max recently as WBD looks for $3.5 billion in “synergy” cuts.

Short history: AT&T closed on an $85 billion purchase of Time Warner Inc. in 2019. The wireless company spent massively to launch HBO Max in 2020. Then it lost its will and spun off the whole operation and merged it with Discovery in a $43 billion deal. The newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) carries more than $50 billion of debt.  

Like Sesame Street, the Looney Tunes ’toons were part of an and-the-kitchen-sink content agenda undertaken by previous WarnerMedia chief Jason Kilar back in the salad-days HBO Max launch era three years ago, with AT&T as free-spending overlord ... and a mindset that it was going to take the entire WB vault and a whole lot of deficit financing to reach scale and have HBO Max win The Streaming Wars. 

Three years later, linear distribution alternatives are more eroded than ever, but Wall Street has somehow lost its desire to fight the streaming battle. Discovery and its CEO, David Zaslav, have taken over the operation. And they want us to know that HBO Max — this robust platform that many of us were seriously beginning to vibe on more than Netflix — was totally unsustainable all along. They’re doing us all a huge favor, Zaslav says, by right-sizing a poorly conceived, unwieldy, inefficient mess of an operation … that many of us really liked on a consumer level. 

For us HBO Max lovers, it's kind of like having your mom leave a Wall Street finance guy to remarry a media-tech trade journalist. The watch party’s kinda over.

Thank you, Dave?

Featuring Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Sylvester, Tweety Bird and other animated luminaries from Warner Bros.’ iconic World War II-era series of cartoon shorts, Looney Tunes represents but one pillar in a robust HBO Max library, certainly justifying for at least a few HBO Max subscribers the premium $14.99-a-month subscription price for the commercial-free iteration of the service.

Zaslav, who bills his regime as the voice of fiscal sanity amid a TMT industry driven mad by this supposedly disruptive organism called the internet, insists we’re gonna miss nothin’ by losing a few episodes of Tweety Bird and Sylvester late at night when we’re hitting the ol‘ chronic and looking for a few comforting laughs. 

“All those write-offs that we took shows off these platforms — we didn’t take one show off a platform that was going to help us in any way," he told investors in November. ▪️

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!