Warner Bros. Wants You to Think of HBO Before Max Again

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Eagle-eyed observers might have noticed the change with today’s announcement that Lanterns, a drama series based on DC’s Green Lanterns characters, is officially getting an eight-episode series order at HBO. That’s right: HBO at the forefront, instead of being labeled as a “Max Original” for the oft-renamed HBO streaming service.

Warner Bros. was designating DC shows as “Max Originals” rather than “HBO Originals” as late as last week, when the latest trailer for The Penguin dropped. But there’s been a shift in the branding, according to a report in Variety that HBO and Max content CEO Casey Bloys is “moving most of Max’s upcoming big-budget, tentpole Warner Bros. IP projects to under the HBO umbrella.”

This shift covers shows releasing in 2025 and beyond—so 2024 releases The Penguin and Dune: Prophecy are both expected to still be labeled as Max shows; “the process of licensing [The Penguin] internationally has already started,” Bloys explained. But once the calendar turns over, look for Lanterns, Stephen King-inspired It prequel series Welcome to Derry, and the Harry Potter series that WB is insistent upon making to fall under that HBO Originals banner.

This switch undoes the previous intention to keep all shows based on WB properties under the Max Originals label, and it came about when Bloys and other execs realized the WB shows weren’t all that different from HBO’s own creations. “As we started producing those shows, we were using the same methods, the same kind of thinking, as how we would approach HBO shows,” he told Variety, noting that there’s even crossover between talent, such as Watchmen’s Damon Lindelof now working on Lanterns. “The idea of the delineation kind of started to feel unnecessary … Let’s just call them what they are: HBO shows.”

What does that mean for viewers? Not a lot. It means that if you see an HBO Original being marketed, it will get the perceived prestige of being on the HBO linear channel; all HBO shows will still stream on Max. Max-only series will still exist, but they’ll be “more in the broadcast/traditional TV vein” and will have more scaled-down budgets compared to the HBO shows. When asked why the company doesn’t just make every show an HBO show, which would be the least confusing way forward, Bloys said, “I do think it is helpful to have a brand that doesn’t put the expectations or the intention of an HBO show. If it’s not designed to do that, it shouldn’t have to.”

Make of that what you will. The Penguin, perhaps the last of the DC Max Originals, arrives September 8.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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