The move came as a surprise, even though the cancellation writing was on the wall. Season four ended two and a half months ago, as sources say HBO took its time with the decision to renew Westworld for the first time because it allowed the season to find viewers on HBO Max.
The move marked the first time Westworld was not renewed while it was on air. Greg Berlanti's HBO Max 'Green Lantern' series being remade, loses writer (exclusive)
From its inception, Westworld was considered a major game changer for HBO. "The production value of this thing is absurd," Abrams told THR a few days before the show's October 2016 premiere.
"But it's HBO. That's what they do. There was no way this idea, that Jonah and Lisa were doing from the beginning as an AAA experience, that HBO would commit. The expense is one thing, but the results are totally on display."
The actors are exceptional, and the writers and director wanted to maximize that sense of cinematic experience. It's not a cheap show to show, but it doesn't hurt to watch it."
The estimated cost of the first season of the series was $100 million, which was high by 2016standards. The expense was justified as Westworld got off to a strong start and was rewarded with a quick renewal of the second season as the drama intensified.
It became one of the first high-profile shows to go off air for almost two years between seasons. The first season, delayed and factoring in cross-platform viewing (remember HBO Go?), garnered an estimated 12 million viewers. The fourth season of the semi-collectible series dropped to 4 million viewers when the dust settled.
That's not enough to justify the series' expense, as HBO has distributed a new installment of Game of Thrones for $125 million, with House of the Dragon hitting nearly 29 million viewers per episode across all platforms during its run.
Sources reveal that Westworld's fourth season, which again consisted of only eight episodes (compared to 10 each in the first two), cost at least $160 million.
"It's reality TV," joked a member of the agency. Westworld, which changed the setting from straight to film every two seasons, was not a cheap show to produce or market.