HBO passed on Warner Bros.' Lord of the Rings TV series because the network prefers to handle their own intellectual properties and not produce licensed programs. Warner Bros. made waves earlier this month when it was revealed that they - under New Line Cinema - would be producing a Lord of the Rings prequel series with Amazon Studios, set prior to the events of The Fellowship of the Ring - though that could range anywhere from the First Age to Frodo finding Bilbo's ring.
From the outset, reception to the Lord of the Rings TV series has been mixed, with some people heralding Amazon and New Line's effort in expanding J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth on the small screen, while others protested the idea since Lord of the Rings has already been adapted to the big screen - as an incredibly successful trilogy by Peter Jackson - and there are plenty of other Tolkien stories, separate from The Lord of the Rings, that can be told on the small screen, such as The Silmarillion. As it turns out, HBO isn't interested in a Lord of the Rings TV show either.
New Line approached HBO to produce and develop a Lord of the Rings TV series, but the network rejected the offer. According to Variety, CEO Richard Plepler said at Business Insider’s Ignition 2017 media conference on Wednesday that they turned down Warners' offer because they are preoccupied with Game of Thrones. Plus, "I’d rather own our IP [intellectual property] 100%… and I’d rather have the ability to work with a product that is inextricably linked to our brand," said Plepler.
Although HBO passing on New Line's Lord of the Rings TV series isn't surprising considering their current lineup as well as their past programs, it is an interesting decision on their part. Besides the fact that Game of Thrones is ending and the network will be looking for an adequate replacement for their hit fantasy series (in the form of prequels and spinoffs), HBO is owned by Time Warner - the same company that owns Warner Bros. - and it seems the studio wanted to keep the series in the corporate family. Unfortunately, they were turned down, and so they reached out to Amazon who welcomed the opportunity to shepherd a new Middle-Earth epic on television.
Amazon's Lord of the Rings prequel TV series is still in the early stages of development, and details are scarce aside from the fact that it will take place before the core events of Tolkien's trilogy. While Amazon has surely made a name for itself with its award-winning movies (Manchester by the Sea) and TV shows (e.g. Transparent), they are looking for a property that will draw in millions of viewers - and Lord of the Rings just might be their answer.