John Oliver Laments HBO Mergers and Having ‘Three Different Business Daddies in 10 Years’

Somehow, ‘Last Week Tonight’ survived AT&T’s acquisition of HBO and the infamous Discovery merger
John Oliver Laments HBO Mergers and Having ‘Three Different Business Daddies in 10 Years’

You know John Oliver is serious when he’s using the word “daddy” to describe someone who isn’t Adam Driver.

The host of Last Week Tonight is not known for holding his tongue, even when talking about his corporate overlords. When Warner Bros., which, of course, owns Oliver’s home network HBO, merged with Discovery in 2022, Oliver laid into his new boss’ boss’ boss David Zaslav for his series of unpopular decisions that included shelving completed projects like Batgirl to recoup some of the costs in tax relief. In one of the multiple viral segments Oliver performed on Last Week Tonight amidst the massively discussed and often criticized merger, Oliver snarked of HBO’s famous slogan, “HBO Max: It’s not TV. It’s a series of tax write-offs to appease Wall Street.”

Today, Oliver finds HBO to be only a relatively stable environment compared to other companies under Zaslav’s control, though Oliver continues to feel comfortable going after the mismanagement of mega corporations. Yesterday, Oliver sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about how Last Week Tonight somehow survived such turnover long enough to turn ten years old tomorrow, and he discussed his own experiences living through the Warner Bros.' 2016 merger with AT&T just to be hit with the Discovery one in 2022. If HBO had their way, we’d have to wait another three days to hear his take on the state of the company.

When Oliver's interviewer described the series of mergers and acquisitions that HBO has survived since the start of Last Week Tonight as 30 Rock-esque, Oliver joked, “That’s always used in a good way, right?” Oliver summarized of his show's experience with their corporate owners as having “three different business daddies in 10 years,” saying that, despite Last Week Tonight celebrating its tenth birthday tomorrow, the chaotic business life of HBO is “another reason why it’s not really been 10 years of complete normal stability.”

Said Oliver of his home channel's many acquisitions, “It’s always the same lie before any takeover is about to happen: ‘I think this is going to be really good.’ That’s what you hear, and that is never, ever the case. But feel free to keep believing that for as long as you can!” Still, Oliver considers himself and his HBO colleagues lucky, saying, “HBO has largely been able to not feel the worst effects of it. That’s the hugely fortunate side of getting to work for them. Long may that continue because I don’t want to have anything to do with any of these corporate parents as they blow in and out of our lives.”

And, just like any child, Oliver has been doing his absolute best to give his corporate parents cardiac events with the kinds of segments he does on Last Week Tonight — for instance, when he interviewed NSA leaker and whistleblower Edward Snowden in just his second year at HBO. And, when it came to discussing the risks involved in such an interview with his corporate bosses, Oliver said, “You don’t know how happy HBO is going to be that we’ve gone and not told them.”


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