“The studios are not in brand conversations. It’s not a filmmaker’s medium anymore. We’re in the brand play business,” HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo said today during the Hollywood Radio And Television Society Cable Chiefs lunch in Beverly Hills. Brands and binge viewing were the primary topics of conversation among the panel that featured Lombardo, A+E Networks President, Entertainment and Media Nancy Dubuc and Turner Entertainment Networks president Steve Koonin. Ben Silverman was moderator. “You’re seeing a number of storytellers unable to work in the studio system”, Lombardo continued. “The paradigm has shifted; serious adult drama is happening on cable. That’s what people talk about on Monday — it’s the cable show they saw, not the movies anymore”. Said Dubuc, “We each have our own brand fulfillment and it is our jobs to not only manage that but to evolve it.”
Koonin cut to the chase: “Brands are the temple we worship at,” he quipped to laughter as he described the work and metrics that went into developing TNT’s “We Know Drama” tagline. “When you manage a brand you have to be consistent,” he said. “Basic cable has become an oxymoron now, there is nothing basic about it”. He added: We’ve changed our marketing strategy. We’re going to market from green light to finale, though I shouldn’t say that. We have to give people reason after reason after reason, I can go on and on, to get it,” Koonin said.
“I think that we have a very established brand and by that I mean an emotional connection — the challenge with HBO is to make sure the brand is never static,” Lombardo said. “You guys have proven that if you create the brightest, shiniest object, people will pay attention to your brand,” Koonin remarked to his HBO counterpart later.
The shadow of Netflix was also in the room today, specifically the on-demand streaming service’s recent experiment making all of the first season of House Of Cards available at once. “It’s a showy thing to do but I’m not sure it is the best way to connect the viewer. Our hope is Game Of Thrones becomes a Sunday expectation — we want to drive viewers to a night,” Lombardo said. “It is about content that resonates. If people don’t respond, all these other conversations are meaningless,” he added to agreement from the other panelists. “The interesting thing about the digital world is that everyone is changing the rules. There are no rules anymore,” he said. “What’s the rulebook today will not be the rulebook in six months”.