HBO Max Pulls the Plug on 'Degrassi' Reboot as Warner CEO Says Developing Projects 'At Any Cost Is Over'

Image via Getty/George Pimentel/WireImage
Image via Getty/George Pimentel/WireImage

HBO Max has scrapped its much-anticipated Degrassi reboot.

The series was announced at the top of the year, months before the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery Inc. Since then, the company has announced a slew of cost-saving cutbacks in effort to reduce its $50 billion debt. This included a slew of HBO Max cancellations, including projects like the Batgirl movie, the Strange Adventures anthology series, and the Gordita Chronicles. 

The Degrassi revival was expected to start filming over the summer and premiere sometime in 2023. Lara Azzopardi (Backstage) and Julia Cohen (Riverdale) were tapped as the series’ showrunners, with WildBrain Studios set to produce.

“What excites us maybe the most about reviving this beloved franchise is turning it into a truly serialized one-hour drama,” Azzopardi and Cohen said in a joint statement. “We’re honored to be given the opportunity to lead this evolution and bring this iconic series back into people’s homes.”

The Degrassi franchise kicked off in the late 1970s and has expanded into five different series: The Kids of Degrassi Street, Degrassi Junior High, Degrassi High, Degrassi: The Next Generation, and Degrassi: Next Class. The Next Generation starred Aubrey Graham—a.k.a. Drake—as Jimmy Brooks, alongside Jake Epstein, Ryan Cooley, Stacey Farber, Nina Dobrev, and more.

WildBrain Studios president Josh Scherba said the reboot would stay true to the franchise’s brand, while taking audiences on “a journey into exciting new territory, both creatively and dramatically.”

The announcement came just hours after Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav completed a Q3 earnings call with investors. According to Deadline, Zaslav proposed several ways the company could boost profits going forward, like potentially connecting with J.K. Rowling on additional Harry Potter content.

“We’re going to have a real focus on franchises,” Zaslav said. “We haven’t had a Superman movie in 13 years. We haven’t done a Harry Potter movie in 15 years. The DC movies and the Harry Potter movies provided a lot of the profits of Warner Bros. Motion Pictures over the last 25 years. So a focus on the franchise — one of the big advantages that we have, House of the Dragon is an example of that, Game of Thrones, taking advantage of Sex and the City, Lord of the Rings, we still have the right to do Lord of the Rings movies. What are the movies that have brands that are understood and loved everywhere in the world?”

Zaslav went on to reiterate his criticism of direct-to-streaming films, saying the company should instead “focus on the big movies, the tentpoles that people are going to leave home, leave early from dinner to see.”

“We learned what doesn’t work. And this is what doesn’t work for us based on everything that we’ve seen: direct-to-streaming movies,” he explained. “So spending a billion dollars or collapsing a motion picture window into a streaming service. The movies that we launch in theater do significantly better, and launching a 2-hour, 40-minute movie direct to streaming has done nothing for HBO Max in terms of viewership, retention or love of the service.”

Zaslav also confirmed that WBD had upped its original savings goal from $3 billion to $3.5 billion, indicating there were more changes—and likely cuts—on the horizon.

“The grand experiment of creating something at any cost is over,” he said. “… This is more than just a dollar tally of what we’ve saved on an expense line,” Zaslav said during the call with analysts. “It is more than just a number. We are fundamentally rethinking and reimagining how this organization is structured. And we are empowering our business unit leadership to transform their organizations with an owners mindset and a view on quality and accountability.”

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