Last night marked the beginning of the end for HBO’s flagship series, global mega hit Game Of Thrones. HBO was in a similar position 12 years ago when another blockbuster drama series, The Sopranos, came to an end. Like was the case back then, questions are being raised about HBO’s future and how the network will survive the loss of its biggest series. In an interview with Deadline, Bob Greenblatt, the recently appointed Chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer, who oversees HBO as well as the upcoming WarnerMedia digital platform and Turner, and HBO President of programming Casey Bloys address those questions. Greenblatt also discusses the possibility for more Game Of Thrones universe series beyond the prequel starring Naomi Watts, which was ordered to pilot.
There have been mixed signals on how much the volume of programming at HBO will grow after expanding 50% to 150 hours in 2019. While HBO brass have indicated that the portfolio would likely not increase significantly beyond that, executives for new owner AT&T have talked about a “bigger and broader” HBO, hinting at a major slate ramp-up to rival current streaming leader Netflix. Bloys and Greenblatt share the latest on the volume increase plans and address the future of Cinemax, which has a new programming head, Len Amato, who is taking over for departing Kary Antholis.
Greenblatt also provides an update on the pending layoffs in the wake of WarnerMedia’s acquisition by AT&T and how he will navigate any competition for premium projects between HBO and the streaming platform. Bloys discusses possible new installments of Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective and Marti Noxon’s Sharp Objects and gives an update whether Silicon Valley may be coming to an end. Additionally, Greenblatt who executive produced HBO’s Six Feet Under, talks about the chances of doing a reboot.
DEADLINE: Game Of Thrones is coming to an end; now what? What does HBO’s future look like without its signature series?
BLOYS: If you think about what has aired between the last season of Game of Thrones and the current season, we have Westworld, Succession, Sharp Objects, The Deuce, My Brilliant Friend, The Night Of, Leftovers, Barry, Veep, High Maintenance, John Oliver, Bill Maher, not to mention the docs, Hard Knocks, The Shop, and that’s going to continue going forward. I’m not going to sit here and say, oh, it’s no big deal. Game of Thrones is a very big show for us, but we’re not just the network of Game of Thrones. There’s a lot of really high quality, really great shows that we do, and that’s going to continue. If you look at the schedule with Euphoria and Watchmen and The Nevers, and His Dark Materials. We have more than we’ve ever had in the works. I will personally be sad to see Game of Thrones go. As a fan, I love it, but as usual, HBO will survive and we will go on.
GREENBLATT: I’ll also add that networks often go through these periods when signature shows go away, and people speculate on what the future is. And there’s always something that comes along that you didn’t expect. I don’t think anybody would say that they thought The Sopranos would turn into that, or that Game of Thrones would turn into what it did. So I think you just have to keep your focus on being in business with the best people you can, putting all the effort into making these shows great, and the next big phenomenon will come when you least expect it. In the meantime, there’s that whole list that Casey just went through of things that are all extraordinary in their own right.
DEADLINE: HBO has the Game of Thrones prequel pilot, with several other prequels in development. Bob, after examining the programming strategy with Casey, are you considering putting at least one other Game Of Thrones series on the fast track sooner and possibly getting multiple GOT shows on the air?
GREENBLATT: It’s a double-edged sword. The answer is yes, we’re having conversations about how do we smartly continue the Game of Thrones universe, but we have to be really thoughtful about not killing the golden goose and not putting on shows that aren’t up to that quality level, and how many is too many. We’re having all those conversations. I don’t know yet what will come of all this material, but I think they’ve been smartly developing things that were really good ideas in this universe, and George Martin is involved. There’s a prequel in production, but just a pilot so that we can see if it has all the goods and is it worthy of going forward. We’re just trying to be really thoughtful about how to expand this universe if it makes sense, and not, like I said, kill the golden goose.
DEADLINE: A lot has been said about increasing the volume of HBO programming. Now that Bob has had time to settle in and there have been more conversations, do you have an expansion plan firmed up for the next couple of years?
BLOYS: We’re at 150 hours. I think in 2019 it could stay there, it could go up. Part of it is determined by the shows have to be good. We’re trying to do good shows, not necessarily hit a number, and I think a little bit of determining that number will be shows that we think are worthy, and can we deliver to a creator the experience that people have come to expect working at HBO? We don’t want to lose that. We don’t want the volume to get too high that people feel like they’re lost in the shuffle. So far I think 2019 is feeling good, so a little bit for us will be trial and error.
GREENBLATT: I think we’ll stay at this level, where the plan is, and see how things come in. It could grow a little bit more, but again, we want to be very thoughtful about that and not just pick up series right and left just because that’s what our business now demands.
DEADLINE: Have the two of you had creative conversations yet? Bob, you come from a development background, have you pitched any show ideas to Casey?
BLOYS: Bob has had a lot of experience, and just taking him through the schedules has been really helpful in terms of, he’s worked with almost everybody and knows who is really good and. It’s always helpful to talk to someone who has done this and understands programming. So yes, we’re talked through schedules out through the next three years.
GREENBLATT: There’s a couple of specific things that I wanted to bring into the company, and we’re working on some things that could be exciting, which I don’t mean to be coy about, but there’s a couple of things early on that I’ve been talking about. I went to Casey and said, hey, here’s something that I think could be potentially great for us, think about it. The last thing I want to do is start forcing things into the system, but there’s been a couple of things that we’ve thought are really exciting ideas, and maybe we can get them in house, and so we’re working on those things, and that’s what is exciting about me coming here.
I’m thrilled to walk into a place where it doesn’t have to be reinvented. NBC was a different experience for me. It was a complete reinvention of that company on so many levels; the cupboards were bare, and we started over. This is like walking into a place that’s in incredible shape. So I just get to not only revel in that, but it’s like, oh, there’s a good idea, I’ve heard about this, let’s talk about this, and it’s really fun to be with all these incredible people whom I’ve respected for a number of years anyway.
DEADLINE: Bob, you oversee both HBO and WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming platform. Will there be any overlap between the two in terms of programming? Do you have to serve as a traffic cop directing premium content to the two outlets? How will decide know which one is an HBO project and which one has to go to the streaming platform?
GREENBLATT: That’s a good question. I think what we’re trying to do, and I don’t think it’s just traffic cop that would describe it, because I’m really happy to have Casey and (Chief Creative Officer Turner and WarnerMedia Direct-to-Consumer) Kevin Reilly also talking a lot about this very thing and having a meeting of the minds.
The HBO stuff is going to stay what it is and what you know that it is, and to some degree, it’s in a certain kind of demo, and we know what that is. The streaming platform is going to hopefully extend and expand beyond what HBO does. So there’s going to be certainly some series that might look like, oh, that could be an HBO show but I think will be separate and have its own identity. But there’s other genres that HBO doesn’t really cover much in terms of children’s programming and family programming and animation, and reality programming, and things that we will supplement what HBO does with. I think we’re in the early stages of figuring out how to do that, and with everybody’s input, and I don’t want to just have a whole bunch of new series on the platform that look like they could be HBO shows. That would be duplicative, and there’s a lot more that we can and should do to round out a platform that just reaches the entire demo from kids to adults, and young YA stuff, lots of things that are not going to ever be HBO’s main focus.
DEADLINE: A couple of programming questions. True Detective is coming off a well received third installment starring Mahershala Ali. Any talks about a fourth installment?
BLOYS: No. Nic is thinking if he’s got an idea, and we’ll wait to see. With the third season, he showed us scripts that were great, and that’s why we decided to do it. So we’ll take a wait-and-see approach, see what he’s thinking.
DEADLINE: But he hasn’t indicated yet that he has an idea?
BLOYS: No. I haven’t seen anything. I think he’s noodling ideas, but he hasn’t come to us with anything.
DEADLINE: Casey, you said last summer that there are no plans for Sharp Objects to get a second installment but Marti Noxon recently made comments that she and author Gillian Flynn have an idea for a second season. Are you having conversations for more episodes?
BLOYS: They haven’t come to us with anything, and my suspicion is one season was right for that show. I can’t imagine getting everybody back. The hard thing about these things that are one season is trying to get everybody back together, but also, it feels like the one season was the right thing for that show. It was the right ending, so I think that’s probably where it will stay.
DEADLINE: Any update on Silicon Valley‘s upcoming sixth season being its last?
BLOYS: They are in the writers’ room now. We usually leave it to them to talk with the writers and see if they come to us and say, oh my God, we got two seasons’ worth. We’ll talk about that. They haven’t come back. They’re still talking, and we’ll see.
DEADLINE: Are you planning any changes for Cinemax’s programming strategy. Will its original fare remain popcorn, action series, mostly coproductions?
GREENBLATT: I think, not having gotten around to everything yet, but I think Cinemax is going to stay what it has been. It’s a service that’s really well distributed, and I think some of the shows that have come out of there have been really great and have a distinct personality from HBO proper. I think it’s just going to continue the way it has been; Casey, I don’t know if you want to add anything.
BLOYS: No big changes. We have programming through the next year or two, and I think it’s too soon to say whether there’s going to be any big changes in its direction, but for now, we’re going to continue to do the international coproductions, the pulpy action kind of programming that’s done so well for the network.
DEADLINE: Any update on layoffs? Bob, you noted after taking the job that they likely will be in hundreds overall for the company.
GREENBLATT: I’m happy to speak to that because I know people are still curious about it, and somebody has been saying, oh, it’s death by a thousand cuts, which I just laugh about because I don’t think there’s a thousand anything going out the door. Disney and Fox is a completely different animal from what we’re doing, and I understand why those massive layoffs are happening over there.
We’re bringing these companies together to some degree, and mostly in shared administrative functions in terms of efficiency. I don’t want to blend the brands or dilute any of that. No. Additionally we’re adding the streaming service, which to some degree the companies will be working together as we build that. So there will be some consolidations behind the scenes, not in the brands or the programming, but I think to some degree that will be offset by people we’re adding into the streaming service.
You’re not going to wake up one day and see hundreds of pink slips in any department. It will be just a thoughtful process, it’s going to take several months, if not the rest of the year, and I don’t think there will be any dramatic headlines.
DEADLINE: Any plans for a Six Feet Under reboot or at least a movie like Deadwood? Bob?
GREENBLATT: By the way, I’d love it. I just put up two of the key art posters in my office in the Santa Monica HBO office building, and I’m so proud of that show. I don’t think that’s a show that will probably come back as many people have gone off to other things, but I love working at this company having had that wonderful experience. It cemented in me as a younger executive, how a company should be run and how a talent relationship should happen. It was the most satisfying experience I’ve probably ever had in this business, certainly as a producer. I tried to emulate it at Showtime, I continue to try to emulate it in all the places that I’ve been, and I’m thrilled to be back here at this place.
DEADLINE: And finally, the biggest question, who will sit on the Iron Throne?
BLOYS: Oh, let me tell you…
GREENBLATT: I think Casey Bloys is sitting on the throne.
Euphoria (June 16)
His Dark Materials (2019)
The Deuce (final season in 2019)
The New Pope (2020)
My Brilliant Friend (2020)
Big Little Lies (June 9)
Years and Years (2019)
Summer of 2014 (2019)
The Outsider (2020)
I Know This Much Is True (2020)
The Undoing (2020)
Los Espookys (June)
The Righteous Gemstones (2019)
Room 104 (2019)
A Black Lady Sketch Show (2019)
Mrs. Fletcher (2019)
Silicon Valley (2019)
Curb Your Enthusiasm (2020)
High Maintenance (2020)
Catherine the Great (2019)
The Plot Against America (2020)
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (2020)
Gorilla and the Bird
Mare of Easttown
Contraband (fka Demimonde)
The Time Traveler’s Wife
Untitled Jane Goldman and George R.R. Martin GOT Prequel