What the HBO Max Leak Tells Us About the Future of Queer Programming

A few weeks ago, the Internet flew into a panic as news of a merger between HBO Max and Warner Bros. Discovery left some of our favorite shows dangling in the balance.

Last night, per a leak reported on by the Daily Beast, we’re starting to assess the true extent of the damage. And surprise surprise, diverse content, executives of color, and queer programming are the first to get the axe. Which is depressing, if not surprising. 

“One former employee says as many as 13 people of color previously in charge of developing shows like The Gordita Chronicles and the Spanish-language docuseries Menudo: Forever Young have been let go,” the Daily Beast reported. That’s not all: according to the report, few staffers of color remain in high-level positions. Among those let go were key executives of color in charge of original international programming, as well as staffers working to create diverse original content to the platform. The Root reported that OWN—which unfortunately is also part of the Discovery network—lost four of its top employees. 

“HBO is the most homogenous part of this umbrella,” a former HBO Max employee told the Daily Beast. “Instead of trying to figure out how to integrate some of the [Max] executives into HBO, they just made this sweeping cut of three divisions: kids, family, and international. A lot of Black and brown people lost their jobs.”

So what does this mean for the future of the streaming service? Predictably, and in keeping with other services who have randomly decided that diverse programming doesn’t spell the big bucks, Warner Bros. Discovery is trying to appeal to Middle America, which has increasingly become industry code for conservative, often Trump-supporting viewers. 

The implications for queer content are just as dire, of course. We’ve already seen this in the cancellation of the promising Batgirl film starring Leslie Grace. We’ve also seen queer content like “Infinity Train” and “Genera+ion” get removed from the streaming, as well as the Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith-produced original series “Charm City Kings” Alan Ball’s queer series “Here and Now,” and the TV adaptation of Bong Joon Ho’s “Snowpiercer” starring Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs. 

All in all, it’s not looking good for anyone who isn’t white, cis and straight looking to see their stories onscreen. Which is, again, not surprising, but extremely depressing. 

Of course, it comes down to assumptions about the market value of each audience.

“Where HBO Max is popular with diverse groups, single people, and drivers of hybrid cars, Discovery+ is popular with white, married people who drive SUVs, minivans, and “traveling buses.”,” the Daily Beast reports. “HBO Max viewers are on TikTok and Instagram, while Discovery+ viewers use social media platforms Facebook and Twitter, with the added caveat, “if any.” 

In a word: oy. 

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