And Just Like That … the internet breathed a heavy sigh and asked why another iconic TV series is being revived, while many die-hard Sex and the City fans celebrated at the idea of revisiting the lives of Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda.
On Sunday, HBO Max confirmed that it is bringing HBO’s Emmy-winning comedy Sex and the City back for a new incarnation, this one titled And Just Like That … in a nod to the original series. Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon will all reprise their roles in the 10-episode comedy, which will reunite the trio with Emmy winner Michael Patrick King, who oversaw the show and its pair of features.
But why is the comedy coming back at all? And why is it on streamer HBO Max and not the premium cable network served as the home of the New York-set comedy for six seasons from 1998-2008? To answer the first part of that question, look no further than The Mandalorian.
When Disney+ launched, it was home to the Star Wars spinoff series. To no surprise, the Jon Favreau-created drama was a hit right out of the gate and illustrated the need for upstart streamers to lean into their parent company’s biggest intellectual property. At this point in the streaming wars, having rights to well-known properties like Star Wars and Marvel films provides the backbone of the service. New titles that appeal to those same audiences are paramount as media conglomerates like Disney, HBO Max parent company WarnerMedia and others compete with Netflix for subscriber dollars and viewer eyeballs.
In the next few years, Disney+ will be home to nearly a dozen original Star Wars TV series and another dozen or so spinoffs from the multibillion-dollar Marvel Cinematic Universe. HBO Max is following a similar strategy with its Sex and the City follow-up (among other titles).
WarnerMedia is tasked with converting HBO subscribers to its streaming service, which costs the same as the linear channel but offers a vast library of film (all things DC and Warner Bros.) and TV titles (Friends, Big Bang Theory, Game of Thrones, The Sopranos). The conglomerate also must appeal to new subscribers, which is where originals come in. While Sex and the City has been off the air for more than a decade, new — and younger — audiences have found the series on syndication on basic cable networks like TBS and E! (Much in the same way new generations discovered Friends and The Office in Netflix.) With a pair of feature films also part of its larger franchise, Sex and the City now has the kind of broad and mainstream audience that is appealing to an upstart streaming service like HBO Max. As one source familiar with the deal tells THR, “Right now, Max is looking for attention-getting things.” (See Wonder Woman 1984 and Warners’ entire 2021 film slate, for example.)
Sex and the City and the Warners film slate are mere pieces of the larger strategy to build up HBO Max. The streamer, like Disney+, is leaning into IP owned by its parent company. HBO Max’s DC films will soon be joined by companion series like The Batman feature film spinoff from Matt Reeves and Suicide Squad offshoot, Peacemaker. J.J. Abrams is creating a Justice League Dark TV universe for the platform. Other popular Warner Bros. TV titles are also being revisited. The creators of Gossip Girl are reviving the series for a new generation with a new cast (and familiar narrator). The creator of The CW’s Riverdale — which solidified its breakout status thanks to a streaming deal with Netflix — is revisiting Freeform’s network-defining hit Pretty Little Liars. Both offshoots will join the full library of both titles on the platform. Super-producer Greg Berlanti, who launched the Arrow-verse on The CW, is creating a new DC TV world for HBO Max with a big-budget take on Green Lantern.
The strategy also explains why HBO Max spent millions to reunite the cast and creators of Friends for a reunion special that, were it not for the pandemic, would have been the piece of urgent “must-see TV” the streamer needed for launch. (Consider The Mandalorian again here, which helped drive signups on day one of Disney+.)
Think of it this way: Netflix got subscribers in the door by offering library titles like The Office and Friends as well as a plethora of movies. Original series like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black helped the service appeal to new audiences. The race for well-known properties with built in brand awareness (more recently, see Bridgerton and Cobra Kai) helps keep current subscribers and draw new ones. HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s recently launched streamer, Peacock, are mirroring the same strategy by offering library titles (The Office moved to Peacock this year after NBCUniversal paid $500 million to regain rights to the show it originally produced) and leaning into its well-known properties. Like the new takes on Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl, the new Sex and the City will live alongside the original series on HBO Max. Peacock, like Max and Disney+, is doing the same thing with titles like Battlestar Galactica, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Saved by the Bell and Punky Brewster and betting big on originals that pair well with library titles like Tina Fey’s Girls5Eva (which will live alongside 30 Rock) and Mike Schur’s Rutherford Falls (which pairs with The Office).
As for why And Just Like That … will be on Max instead of HBO proper, sources say the premium cable network considers its role in the WarnerMedia ecosystem to come up with the next Sex and the City. Think of shows like Girls, Insecure and, more recently, I May Destroy You. Or as one source says, “HBO is the star maker.” And those star-making shows all wind up on HBO Max in the end.