As HBO Max begins its European rollout next month, Chief Content Officer Casey Bloys said that programming strategy for the streamer will be driven by creative quality rather than data. Bloys, who runs content for both HBO and HBO Max spoke remotely at the RTS Convention today, telling delegates the company was “still figuring out the best way to use data.”
“I think we’ve always been a creative-driven company, not a data-driven company and I don’t see that changing at all,” he said. “However I do think it will be helpful to get a better sense of how people are using your service, what kinds of shows they are watching and for how long.”
Bloys stressed that having European programming that resonates domestically was a real boon to the service, pointing to Spanish horror 30 Coins and Swedish hockey drama Beartown both as examples of shows that worked in the U.S. market.
“I think the real key in having a more coordinated international approach is the local programming, which is so important,” he said. “But if we can get European programming that works in the U.S., that’s a real benefit to us. I think that audiences, because of streaming, are a lot more open to foreign language shows than they were two or three years ago. That exchange of our domestic U.S. shows traveling to Europe and vice versa, if you can get one that hits, it’s great.”
HBO has a long-list of UK co-productions under its belt ranging from His Dark Materials and I May Destroy You, both made with the BBC, and Chernobyl with Sky UK. These co-pros look set to continue, said Bloys. “I would be hard-pressed to tell you a co-production that we didn’t have a good experience with and that’s across the board,” he noted.
Bloys added, “You have an incredibly vibrant television community in the UK and have for decades so I know I’m going to want to continue to work with producers and writers and directors from the UK. What that looks like on a platform basis, again I think that’s something that all companies are trying to figure out. But one thing I do know is that I can’t see a scenario where we don’t work with producers and talent from the UK.”
When asked about Christopher Nolan’s recent criticism of HBO Max (the director specifically called it the “worst streaming service”) and his decision to part ways with Warner Bros after nearly 20 years by taking his upcoming drama about J. Robert Oppenheimer to Universal, Bloys said he didn’t want to comment too much on the features side of things.
“Obviously what you’ve got is a lot of factors coming together at once,” he said. “As we were talking about digital distribution coming in and you also had the pandemic and I would say the pandemic is really what forced this. You don’t need me to go through various reasons why choosing day-and-date for this year made sense. But I think that Toby [Emmerich] and Ann [Sarnoff] have been pretty clear that going forward in 2022, with hopefully the pandemic behind us, they can go back to a theatrical release model, which I know they really value.”
WarnerMedia is launching HBO Max on October 26 in six European territories. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Spain and Andorra will be the first markets to get the service. Launched in the U.S. in May 2020, HBO Max began its international expansion in June, reaching 39 territories across Latin America and the Caribbean.
WarnerMedia is planning to have 14 additional territories added in 2022 including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia. More territories are also expected to be added to the list.
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