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Judd Apatow Says It’s ‘Scary’ Netflix Can License HBO Shows: ‘Cheaper Than Making New Ones’

Judd Apatow is warning against the rise of rewatching and the implications it has for streamers not to greenlight new series.

The writer/director/producer told Vulture that Warner Bros. Discovery and HBO licensing shows like “Sex and the City” to Netflix is just a recent example of limiting audiences’ “content” options, which is no doubt “cheaper than making new ones.”

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“I’m of two minds,” Apatow said of the rise of viewers rediscovering older series. “There’s a part of me that’s an audience member: I’ll go back and rewatch ‘Deadwood’ or ‘NYPD Blue’ or any of the David Milch shows. I understand why people like the comfort food of television. But it’s a scary thing as a creator of television, because of all the streamers going, ‘Wait a second. We don’t need to spend $200 million on a new show. We can just bring back “Barnaby Jones.”‘

Apatow continued, “They’re going to do it, then you’ll get fewer new shows. They realize, Oh wait, Netflix can just buy shows from HBO, and I would assume they’re cheaper than making new ones. Then at some point, Netflix will sell its shows to HBO, and it’ll just be passing around all the episodes of ‘Ballers’ for the rest of our lives.”

Apatow spoke out about the state of the filmmaking industry, particularly within the TV landscape.

“There are these corporate behemoths and people from the tech world taking over creativity. And for some of them — not all of them — their intentions are just eyeball time online,” the “This Is 40” writer/director said. “I don’t know if they’re obsessed with quality filmmaking in the way other owners of these entities have been in the past. That’s why they started calling it ‘content.’ All of a sudden, they diminished it as much as it possibly could be. I don’t think it would be that weird if you read something in the paper that Pornhub bought Paramount+.”

The “Superbad” director isn’t just concerned about the lack of new shows on streaming platforms but also about the lesser number of comedies in theaters. According to Apatow, it took a drama like “Oppenheimer” to prove that audiences do “want smart movies,” and hopefully, that corporate realization can affect other film genres as well.

“The industry does follow the leader,” Apatow said. “That’s why in the [DGA Awards] monologue I had a joke about all the different toy movies that will come out next, like ‘Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots’ by Lars von Trier. But for comedy, it just requires another hit or two. If a movie like ‘The Hangover’ came out and it was a big hit, suddenly everyone would want five more of those.”

Apatow pointed to the power of franchises, saying, “Here’s the thing that most people don’t understand because they’re not in any of those executive suites: There’s a hit and then they just go, ‘Oh, people like that. Make more like that.’ The thinking is not deeper than that. They will just chase anything that does well, because people generally are averse to risk taking.”

Apatow noted that Universal, specifically head of film Donna Langley, is aware that taking risks is key to the box office, especially as exemplified with Christopher Nolan’s Best Picture Oscar-winning blockbuster “Oppenheimer.”

“The people have to take big risks, and then you realize, No, people want to be challenged. They want smart movies. They want original cinematic experiences. You do need a comedy equivalent of that,” Apatow said. “You need people to say, ‘This is a need that is not satisfied just by sitting home alone, watching a streamer comedy.’ There’s a place for that, surely, but what’s more fun than being in the theater, watching one of the great comedies?”

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