SUPERMAN & LOIS: Is The Series Actually Co-Funded By HBO Max?

It's often been stated by fans online that Superman & Lois is a co-production between The CW and HBO Max. But is that true? Let's break it down.

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Superman & Lois arrived in 2021 to critical acclaim. Starring Tyler Hoechlin as the Man of Steel and Bitsie Tulloch as Lois Lane, the show — which is set in The CW's Arrowverse — connected with audiences due to its story, characters, outstanding special effects and cinematic quality. The series has been closely associated with HBO Max due to it being its streaming home following its original airing. 

Such synergy between the streamer and The CW, paired with Superman & Lois' high quality, led to the belief that the show had been partially funded by HBO Max. But is that true? Well, it's an intricate answer. So far, no, it doesn't appear to be true, and we thought it appropriate to explain why.

The CW's Deal With HBO Max

It appears this rumor began circulating in February 2021, when Deadline reported that The CW and HBO Max were in discussions to co-finance "original summer CW series." The plan was for said shows to be available on HBO Max before airing on The CW the following day.

However, news of that collaboration came in the same month as the release of Superman & Lois' first season, which means the show was not part of the deal. There hasn't been an update regarding that partnership, but it doesn't look like it has affected Superman & Lois' second season, either.

So, if the series is not co-financed by HBO Max, what's the reason behind its movie-like cinematography and special effects, which have often been compared to Man of Steel's? That comes down to the people behind the series wanting to compete with higher-budget streaming projects. As showrunner Todd Helbing explained during a 2021 TCA panel (via Deadline): 

"Whenever you do any of these shows, you want to make them slightly different. [...] We just approached this as much as we could like a feature — from the aspect ratio to the cinematography, to the look, to the design of the house and farm. We are competing with shows on cable and streamers. [We] wanted to be able to do that and offer audiences something of equal quality."

There has been no official information released about the money spent on Superman & Lois, but it looks like the quality-bump relative to other CW offerings came from a more flexible budget. With that, unless there is an undisclosed collaboration between HBO Max and The CW, it doesn't look like the TV series is the result of a co-financing deal. 

Collaboration Between The CW and HBO Max

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Of course, believing Superman & Lois was partly produced by HBO Max is not unreasonable. There are, after all, three critical factors outside of the streamer's reported deal with The CW that could have influenced that theory. Firstly (as mentioned above), the show — much like other CW series — is released on HBO Max after its initial network broadcast.

Deadline, however, revealed that such partnership happened out of convenience following talks between Warner Bros. and CBS, which deemed it best to stream CW shows on HBO Max instead of on CBS All Access (now Paramount+): 

"Since Warner Bros. and CBS are co-owners of the CW and both are intent on the network succeeding, [they] made a collective decision last year that it is in the CW’s best interest if its shows are kept together on the same streaming platform, and HBO Max was selected as home."

Secondly, there's Stargirl, which is actually a DC series co-financed by HBO Max and The CW. That, though, occurred following a very specific set of circumstances. Premiering as an exclusive for the now-defunct DC Universe streaming service, Stargirl was ultimately moved solely to The CW, a shift that came packaged with a co-financing deal with HBO Max. Back in 2021, CW CEO Mark Pedowitz told Deadline the network would be open for more collaborations with the streamer: 

"If [HBO Max is] open to that, we actually would do it. [...] They creatively have to want the show too and believe that the show should go on their platform first for them to work. For us its a great model because it's a way to get excellent summer scripted programming and maximize programming across platforms."

That seems moot now that The CW is up for sale, but future collaborations seemed to be a major possibility at the time. They still may be, but the network's sale is currently too unclear to make an educated guess about what could come after it in terms of deals. 

Finally, there's the fact that HBO Max has been pulling more and more DC television series from other platforms into its service. In 2020, the streamer inherited Doom Patrol, Titans, Harley Quinn and Young Justice from the aforementioned DC Universe. More recently, it also absorbed Pennyworth — an Alfred Pennyworth prequel series — from Epix for its third season. 

All these factors likely made the idea of Superman & Lois being partly funded by HBO Max sound plausible (or factual) for fans. Having said that, it is possible for Kent and Lane's small-screen adventures to move to the streaming platform in the future.

Things Could Change in the Future for Superman & Lois

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As mentioned, it was revealed in early 2022 that The CW was up for sale. This put a big question mark over the network's television series, specifically those based on DC Comics characters. Being adaptations of Warner Bros. biggest characters, it wasn't unreasonable to theorize that shows like Naomi, Legends of Tomorrow and, of course, Superman & Lois, could end up becoming HBO Max originals.

Going by comments made by HBO and HBO Max's Chief of Programming Casey Bloys, that seems like a very plausible outcome for the series. Asked by The Hollywood Reporter if The CW's DC shows could make their way to HBO Max following the network's sale, Bloys stated that its superhero series are valuable assets for WB's streaming platform: 

"We'll see what happens. I don't know, in that sale, what they're looking to do or not do, but those shows do really well when they come to HBO Max in a window deal. They're really well done and valuable shows to us. I'm not involved in the Nexstar or the CW negotiations or anything like that so I don't really know, but generally speaking, the shows that Greg does for The CW are very valuable and perform well on HBO Max."

Superman & Lois could ultimately become an HBO Max production, but this is only speculation. As it stands right now, the series appears to be solely funded by The CW. The show has been a respectable performer for its network, and going by Bloys' comments, it looks like it could have a bright future on HBO Max should things come to that.

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