Why Did HBO Scrap Jon Stewart’s New Digital Animated Show?

On Tuesday night, May 23, Home Box Office (HBO) and Jon Stewart held a joint press conference to announce that Stewart’s highly anticipated digital animation project would not be going ahead. As the hugely popular former The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart was pursuing the animation project as a post-late-night-television project that was pegged to feature on HBO’s digital apps, HBO Now and HBO Go.

The New York Times reported that during the press conference, it was explained that “HBO and Jon Stewart have decided not to proceed with a short form digital animated project,” adding that the network had been excited about the possibilities such a show would bring. However, it’s not the end of the road for the HBO-Stewart partnership.

“We all thought the project had great potential, but there were technical issues in terms of production and distribution that proved too difficult given the quick turnaround and topical nature of the material. We’re excited to report that we have some future projects together, which you will be hearing about in the near future.”

Jon Stewart signed a four-year-long contract about 18 months ago, believing that a new daily show that was supposed to be parodying cable news would be a seamless progression for Stewart. Jon Stewart is widely known for his acerbic commentary on current events and politics.

Jon Stewart performs on stage as The New York Comedy Festival and The Bob Woodruff Foundation present the 10th Annual Stand Up for Heroes event. [Image by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images]

The development stage of Stewart’s latest project including the construction of a brand new animation studio that was situated in New Jersey. A 3D animation company called OTOY was working in conjunction with Stewart to create a series of short-form satirical animated shorts.

One of Stewart’s greatest challenges was coming up with enough content to produce multiple five-minute-long episodes a day. At a later stage, these shorts would have been compiled into a half-hour episode to be aired on HBO.

However, HBO claimed that the reason for shutting down the development of the show was due to “technical difficulties.”

In 2016, Casey Bloys, the programming president at HBO, appeared at the Television Critics Association tour to announce that Jon Stewart would be given free reign to “comment in real time what’s happening during the day’s news events.” Bloys added that the tone of the show would be “very much Jon’s voice, both his actual voice and tone.”

Initially, it was hoped that the studio construction would be completed before the end of the 2016 presidential campaign. However, that did not materialize. Moreover, after the election in November, Casey Bloys announced that Stewart’s project would launch in “February or March” of 2017. That date also came and went, after which Bloys explained that “building an entire animation studio” was a “giant undertaking.”

Millions of HBO dollars were spent on the project, and it is not known how much progress Jon Stewart and the 3d animators had made in the end. Commenting on the difficulty of the project, Stewart said that he had been broken by the pressure of appearing on late-night television for 22 minutes every night. However, at the time, he stated that he was “pretty sure” he could “produce a few minutes of content every now and again.”

Although there has been no indication as to what Jon Stewart will be working on now that the animation project has been canned, HBO confirmed that Stewart would be continuing to work with the network under his current contract that was signed last November.

Most recently, Jon Stewart has been appearing as a regular guest on the Late Night Show With Stephen Colbert, continuing to entertain late-night audiences with his sharp wit and astute observations of politics and current affairs.

[Featured Image by Victoria Will/AP Images]

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