HBO Begins Posting Last Week Tonight Back-Episode Library to YouTube

HBO is continuing to tinker with its YouTube strategy for Last Week Tonight.

Two months after angering fans (and apparently John Oliver himself) when it decided to delay its traditional next-day posting of the Sunday night show’s main segment til later in the week, HBO has begun posting full episodes of Last Week Tonight to YouTube. There is a catch, however–those full episodes are a decade old, at least to start.

The entire first season of Last Week Tonight landed on YouTube for free viewing Sunday night, with more apparently on the way.

The show posted a promotional video announcing the full season drop earlier in the weekend, promising that Seasons 2-8 are also on their way. (Those hoping to watch full episodes from the show’s most recent three seasons will still need a Max subscription here in the U.S.)

YouTube player

“There’s no new episode this week,” the show explained in a statement shared on social media. “But we still have current events. From 10 years ago… Trust us, some of this is still completely relevant. Some.” 

While the primary currency of late-night has historically been its timeliness (hence the decision to hold back Last Week Tonight’s timeliest content for Max subscribers), as popular YouTube channels from the likes of Conan O’Brien and David Letterman have proven, there is a market for “vintage” late night on YouTube–and with that market comes advertising dollars.

HBO’s parent company Warner Bros Discovery has been the most aggressive among its peers in its attempts to cut costs and maximize revenue in recent years. As it’s doing with Last Week Tonight on YouTube, many of the company’s efforts have focused on bringing in more advertising dollars, including introducing a lower-priced ad-supported tier on Max—and those efforts appear to be paying off: In February, the company announced that Max ended 2023 profitable, making it the first streaming service among its legacy media peers to do so.

The decision to post full older episodes of Last Week Tonight isn’t the company’s first effort to eke additional ad dollars out of the show on YouTube. A week after it began delaying the posting of show’s main segment here in the U.S. to drive Max subcriptions, it began releasing the show’s newest episodes to YouTube day and date in foreign territories not covered by Max or other outlets who’ve licensed the show.

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