Still mourning the loss of FBoy Island? So are we—especially after Warner Bros. Discovery threw it into a black hole with all its other canceled shows by removing the title from HBO Max’s streaming library. But today brings good news for fans of America’s greatest dating show, and for fans of other now-defunct WBD series like Westworld. Those and many, many more titles are headed to Tubi and Roku, per The Hollywood Reporter.
It seems this has been the plan for series like Westworld at least since last winter, when Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav promised Warner Bros. Discovery would soon be “aggressively attacking” the growing free, ad-supported television (FAST) space—in other words, streaming services that charge no monthly subscription fee but do rely on ads—with more of its titles. Last winter, WarnerMedia and Discovery unceremoniously axed dozens of series and films as they merged. Those titles were subsequently removed from the new company’s streaming platforms—which ensured it would avoid paying residuals to their producers and stars.
The creators of these productions might feel some relief now that their work will at least be available to watch again, but the timing of this news—just as the Writer’s Guild of America prepares for a possible strike, and as some creators are renewing their cries against Warner Bros. Discovery’s maneuvers last year—is a good reminder that these titles are only technically “free” because both fans and workers already paid a price.
Tubi is absorbing 225 WBD titles that will become available starting in February, per THR, and Variety reports that all of those will be available on-demand. Variety adds that Tubi plans to launch 14 streaming “channels.” Titles moving to Tubi include Westworld, Genera+ion (a deal the show’s creators announced previously), and, per THR, Raised by Wolves, Legendary, FBoy Island, The Nevers, Finding Magic Mike, Head of the Class, and The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Roku appears to have struck a comparable deal. The company is adding 2,000 hours of on-demand library content per THR, which also reports that Roku is creating streaming “channels” (launching spring 2023) for some of its licensed Warner Bros. Discovery content—including Westworld, The Bachelor, Cake Boss, Say Yes to the Dress, and FBoy Island.
It’s unclear whether any of the content moving to Tubi or Roku will be available only through the newly created “channels,” rather than on-demand.
It might be tempting to think of Tubi and Roku as “saving” these shows and movies, as well as the teams that made them, but that’s not really the case. While the titles moving to these platforms do include some of last year’s cancellations, not every dead program made the cut. And plenty more titles—like Discovery titles including Cake Boss and Say Yes to the Dress—had nothing to do with that shake-up in the first place.
While in the past, some canceled shows have been “saved” by new platforms that continue to produce more episodes, that does not appear to be part of this deal; you can watch old episodes of Westworld again, but they also won’t be making new ones. (Nasim Pedrad’s Chad, initially a TBS series, appears to be one of the few exceptions to the rule; as previously announced, the comedy will release its new, second season on Roku.)
THR notes that the list of rescued shows does not include The Gordita Chronicles, Minx, or Made for Love. Also missing is Tuca & Bertie, whose creator—along with The Gordita Chronicles creator Claudia Forestieri—coincidentally condemned Warner Bros. Discovery for its cancellations earlier this week. Both creators’ stories, along with that of The Whistleblower creator Moisés Zamora, spoke to what is lost when corporate mergers come to rule television: quality, thoughtfully executed programming about people who too often show up on screen only as stereotypes.
These Tubi and Roku deals are exciting for Westworld and FBoy Island fans, but they also feel like a bandage over the real, gaping wound that Warner Bros. Discovery’s merger and others like it have come to represent. The entertainment industry is starving out the support workers it relies on to make literally all of its programming, while corporate bosses orchestrate mergers that seem to benefit shareholders more than anyone else.
Netflix—which last year obliterated the editorial operation it had created mostly by luring in female journalists of color with hefty paychecks—now wants to crack down on password sharing while also defending another flurry of cancellations to its increasingly irate subscriber base. Hulu just announced yet another revival (this time, King of the Hill) one day after news broke that it, like so many other streamers, has canceled a critically admired original program (this time, Reboot) after just one season. Disney is looking at layoffs amid “restructuring,” while the newly returned Bob Iger takes home a salary of $1 million (plus an annual performance up to another $1 million, plus up to $25 million in stock options).
Whatever the strategy might be in Hollywood on any given day, neither viewers nor workers appear to factor into its corporate calculus. The movies and TV shows we consume are merely “content” to be shuffled from one platform to the next, for an ever-changing monthly subscriber fee. The only thing that doesn’t change is that when the bills are due, it’s workers and consumers who always seem to wind up paying the price.