On going ‘will they won’t they’ B5 hard reboot
It was well over a year ago now that the original Babylon 5 creator, J. Michael Straczynski, dropped the amazing news that he was writing a pilot script for a hard reboot, a total reimagining, of his classic Babylon 5 TV series for the CW network.
Since then the CW decided to put the project on pause for 12 months while the network was sold and then delayed further due to the current Hollywood strikes. During that time we have reported on SciTrek that we have not been totally confident that the show was ever going to get made. The CW was sold to Nextstar who cancelled much of their existing content in favor of Golf and reality TV. We reported exclusively that the CW were not going to be pursuing the Babylon 5 reboot late last year, throwing the whole project into doubt, even though that might have changed since, but more about that later.
Earlier this year though SciTrek learned that the studio that makes, and owns, Babylon 5, Warner Bros. were still looking to produce the reboot and was interested in selling the show to another network. At the time this seemed like crazy news but we since later learned that WB were in fact following this policy with several of its shows and projects as a way to take advantage of its vast studio capacity while limiting its own risk.
But who is interested in buying the new B5 show?
Well we reported several moths ago that Apple TV+ had contacted WB and had discussions about them possibly buying the show. Apple are after all the only cash rich streaming provider currently, while everyone else is looking to cut budgets and focus on profits following years of the streaming wars, Apple are still able to spend money to try and grow their service.
Warner Bros. have always had a plan though. Well over 2 years ago they decided to put B5 on their streaming service, Max, and it received really good viewing figures. This was done to see what the interest was in the series still before ordering the animated movie ‘The Road Home’. That straight to Blu-ray movie was then released in the last few weeks and again… did really well.
The sales of the Blu-ray and digital downloads have been at the top end of expected sales and Warner Bros. have been given that little bit of extra confidence to push forwards with trying to find a customer for the live action reboot. Now of course they could still make it for the CW as that was the historical home of the show and my understanding is that they did have a ‘first dibs’ agreement with WB. It would also seem that the CW may have a slightly renewed their interest in the show, maybe the blu-ray sales turned their heads a little? However the WB believe they had their chance and are still looking for another partner.
So is Apple TV+ still interested?
Well apparently conversations have continued but according to sources close to the studio, WB though are not so sure. It seems that Apple basically express interest in almost everything. They are desperate to find the next Ted Lasso, that show that puts Apple TV+ into peoples minds and gets them some new subscribers. The feeling at the studio is that their interest is probably not that committed and that even though WB and Apple have a really good working relationship, it is the studio that made Ted Lasso for example, executives are not confident the interest will actually manifest an offer.
They went to Netflix of course, seeing if they could get some of their cash but even though discussions were “productive” there was no real interest expressed. Netflix have other priorities.
However there is one major streaming service I haven’t mentioned. Amazon Prime.
So Warner Bros. also has a good working relationship with MGM and Amazon. The recent Creed movies were made in partnership with WB and MGM, there will be a new Lord of the Rings animated movie made in partnership between the two and in fact the Babylon 5 animated movie was sold exclusively via Amazon. And that is just a few of the business agreements between the two Hollywood giants.
According to my sources Amazon have expressed an interest and that in fact WB currently believe they are the only ones currently interested that are serious. But Amazon are not sure what they want to do with the show.
The way it was explained to me that Amazons view is that Babylon 5 would be perfect for Freevee service. Their free to watch, advert supported channel is always looking for more content and Amazon see Babylon 5 as the perfect show. Now the one bonus to this plan is that it means the show would end up being free to watch… But there is a downside… The budget.
If Amazon really were going to spend big on this show it would end up on their Prime service but if it ends up on Freevee then it is safe to assume the budget would reflect the fact that Freevee is not their premium service and be significantly smaller. There is another possibility though. Around the world Max (the old HBO max) is available on Amazon as an add on. here in the UK HBO have a deal with Sky TV for their material, in the USA they have MAX but in the rest of the world Max is only available through Amazon. So there is the possibility that max could end up being the home for the new show but via Amazon.
Personally I always felt Babylon 5 was Star Treks poorer cousin… that was part of its appeal. I am not sure I want a massive budget. if the show was a glossy, special effects ridden, star studded show… would it really still be Babylon 5?
I am wondering if Freevee with a smaller budget might be a great idea and might actually lead to us getting a show that still feels like Babylon 5.
Either way we will know soon after the Hollywood Strikes because like everything else at the moment, we are waiting on that until anything other than cancellations, gets announced!