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HBO makes a change to John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, aims to boost viewership on Max

John Oliver in ‘Last Week Tonight.’
HBO

For more than a decade, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver has been a staple of many comedy fans’ diets. The show, which devotes one long segment each week to a specific, sometimes unexpected topic, has gotten much of its acclaim thanks in part to the fact that that meaty segment was available to an audience outside of HBO and Max. On Mondays, HBO posted that segment in full to YouTube, allowing non-subscribers to see much of what Oliver’s show contained in a given week. While there were other smaller segments that were reserved for Max and HBO subscribers, a large portion of the show was available to everyone.

Now, that policy is changing for the show’s eleventh season. Oliver made the announcement following the season 11 premiere in February of 2024. “HBO has decided they’re going to wait until Thursday to post them to YouTube from now on,” he wrote. “I hope they change their mind, but until then, you can see our piece about the Supreme Court on HBO, on MAX, and on YouTube in a few days.”

An HBO spokesperson confirmed the news to Deadline, saying that the move was made in an attempt to encourage more potential viewers to subscribe to Max.

“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 as well as promotional exposure,” the spokesperson said. “We are now delaying that availability and hope those fans choose to watch the entire show on Max.”

Season 11 Trailer: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

This move comes as many streaming services try to find ways to boost viewership

During the first heady days when streaming services were being launched, many of them worked to compete with one another both for low prices and for a wide array of content. Now, the streaming economy has shifted significantly, in part because investors realized that these services would eventually need to make money.

That has meant the introduction of ad-supported tiers to services like Netflix and Prime Video, but it has also meant generous policies like the one that HBO had with regard to Last Week Tonight are coming to an end. In delaying the arrival of the segments on YouTube, Warner Bros. Discovery is clearly hoping to drive more people to Max itself, encouraging usage of its streaming platform.

Although Max has one of the deepest catalogs of any streaming service, that deep library is muddled by Max’s unclear branding and difficult-to-navigate interface. It’s clear that the company feels the need to take steps to drive more subscribers, but waiting a few extra days to put Last Week Tonight on YouTube may not be the fix for the streaming service’s larger problems. To address those, Warner Bros. Discovery may have to think more deeply about what streaming users are looking for.

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Joe Allen
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Joe Allen is a freelance culture writer based in upstate New York. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The…
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