A day after WarnerMedia chief John Stankey confirmed plans for increased investment in HBO original programming and teased “very high-profile projects” headed for greenlights at the pay cable network, HBO’s programming president Casey Bloys fielded a slew of questions about the network’s future following the $85.4 billion merger between AT&T and Time Warner.
“There are no plans to dilute the HBO brand in favor of increasing volume of programming,” Bloys said during HBO’s portion of TCA, adding that the network brass have plans to do “nothing different than curate excellence.”
Bloys was not asked directly to comment on Stankey’s now-famous leaked comments from the HBO town hall meeting that “It’s going to be a tough year [at HBO], it’s going to be a lot of work to alter and change direction a little bit.” But Bloys noted that “John’s comments clarifying were helpful” during the Tuesday AT&T earnings call. On the call, Stankey walked back the “tough year” comment, saying, “I would tell you I don’t think it fairly characterized what we are about.”
Bloys noted that HBO CEO Richard Plepler had been vocal about the need for more investment, so “what I heard [at the town hall] was more investment, which was music to our ears.”
That was a welcome change from the past couple of years when HBO parent Time Warner was focused on preparing for a sale, not investing. “This is the first in long time that someone is prepared to invest,” Bloys said.
He was adamant that “no one has talked to us about diluting HBO programming and increasing the volume to a point where we lose creative control. You won’t see us do Love Boat reboots.”
On the call Tuesday, Stankey said that Plepler and his team have identified “tremendous projects already in the funnel they have not been in a position to say yes to.” He did not offer specifics as to genre or talent but described them as material that has “already scoped out that we already have rights for.” These “very high-profile projects,” he said, will bring down rates of churn and keep subscribers from “jumping in and out” based on programming flow.
Bloys would not elaborate on what those projects might be or even what genres the network might be targeting.
“We are not going to do anything that doesn’t feel like something we wouldn’t have done before; no one is asking us to sacrifice quality for volume,” he noted. “I don’t want to change anything about the process and the culture in any way.”
The talk about stepped-up investment in HBO comes just as the network is about to bid farewell to its biggest series, Game of Thrones. Asked about the timing, Bloys said, “Any time is a goad time to invest in programming,” noting that there was similar concern when previous signature HBO series, The Sopranos, Sex and the City and Entourage were ending.
“There is no the next Sopranos and the next Game of Thrones, there are the next great shows,” he said.
Bloys also was asked about Netflix recently ending HBO’s long streak as the network with most Primetime Emmy nominations. He said he wasn’t surprised given the rise of volume of TV programming.
“I want to congratulate Netflix,” Bloys said. “We are proud to have had the most nominations for so long; they should be proud of [what they have accomplished].”
Noting that he was “very proud of the depth of our nominations,” with HBO nabbing more than 100 noms for a fourth time, Bloys made it clear, “Getting more or less nominations is not going to change the type of shows we develop.”
He added, returning to the increased volume topic, “I think we can do more but not lose the quality with increased funding.”