Judd Apatow on Why It’s “Scary” Netflix Can License HBO Shows: “Cheaper Than Making New Ones”

Judd Apatow is opening up about the current state of television and why he finds it “scary” that Netflix can license shows from HBO.

The writer-director-producer told Vulture in a recent interview that licensing pacts between streaming giants is just going to lead to viewers getting “fewer new shows.”

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“I’m of two minds,” Apatow explained. “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.”

The This Is 40 writer-director continued, “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.’ 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.”

Last year, it was revealed that several Warner Bros. Discovery-owned titles, including Insecure and Sex and the City, would be available on Netflix, the rival streaming platform in the U.S. It was part of a co-exclusive deal with WBD’s streamer Max.

Apatow also shared his thoughts with Vulture on the future of Hollywood, particularly within the TV medium.

“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 Girls writer-producer 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+.”

But Apatow later stressed the importance of taking risks in filmmaking, using Universal’s Donna Langley as an example when she took a bet on Oscar-winning Oppenheimer. However, he acknowledged that the industry typically likes to play “follow the leader.”

“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,” the 40-Year-Old Virgin director-writer added. “They will just chase anything that does well, because people generally are averse to risk taking.”

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