HBO and HBO Max chief programmer Casey Bloys has a key message to get across: the storied pay network and the year-old streamer are both on full throttle creatively with ample funding despite all the noise around corporate mergers.
“I do think some of those larger business stories have obscured the programming success,” Bloys said during a press event at WarnerMedia’s NYC headquarters. He showed clips, in some cases the very first, of upcoming series including GOT’s 2022 spinoff House of the Dragon. He didn’t give a date for the prequel that’s currently in production but confirmed no other Game of Thrones-themed fare has yet been greenlit although a number of projects are in development.
A month ago WarnerMedia parent AT&T announced plans to reshape the media business by spinning off the entertainment company after owning it for only three years. It will merge with Discovery in a deal expected to close in the middle of next year. Wall Street and Hollywood and people inside both companies have lots of questions about how a combined WarnerMedia Discovery will look, operate and, especially, if or how it will pool its streaming assets.
Bloys shrugged off the noise, showing teasers for upcoming seasons of HBO’s The Righteous Gemstones, Succession, Euphoria, Julian Fellowes The Gilded Age and the untitled Los Angeles Lakers project. HBO Max trailers included Julia, Peacemaker and Mindy Kalings The Sex Lives of College Girls. Max is looking to define itself in three areas – with female demos, YA and DC. Pressed on Succession’s fall air date he indicated it could be “somewhere between” Halloween and Christmas. Part of his hesitation is still Covid-related. Protocols are still in place and the virus is still around. “It’s much better, but it’s is still something we’re dealing with” and could still cause delays, he said.
On Max, The Flight Attendant was a popular and critical success and he said Hacks “same thing, It totally broke through. “I hope it will be a real contender at the Emmys. Not just for Jean Smart … but the whole show.”
“Despite everything going on around HBO, the creative team – I’ve been there 17 years, my colleague [too], some people 25 to 30 year — we’re still doing our thing. The mission at HBO hasn’t changed. The kind of shows we are looking for. No one has asked us to cut our funding in any way,” Bloys said, noting that 2022 will see the highest level of scripted programming we ever had.”
No word on whether Mare of Easttown will be back. “People tend to think that those decisions are like ABC in the 70s – ‘We we need more Mare, we need more Mare!’ It’s a decision with Brad [Ingelsby] and with Kate [Winslet] – I would rely on them coming to us, saying we think there’s more, here is what it is. It’s not a foregone conclusion that just because something does well” it gets another season. “It starts with the creative team. I am never the one driving it.”
Increasingly popular limited series have “pluses and minuses” he said. Ongoing shows have the advantage of a built-in fan base. Limited runs have “the ability to get actors who are not looking to be tied up for five years.” There will continue to be a mix.
He also noted that HBO Max has done well releasing a few episodes at a time of new series — something between a put-it-all-out-there to binge model and a weekly drop.
As for In Treatment and White Lotus, he said they were conceived, written and shot during the pandemic. The former had a very small production footprint – mostly two people in a room. The latter took over a resort and created a bubble there. “Those were direct results of thinking of what kinds of shows would lend themselves to production during Covid. I don’t know if there will be more,” Bloys said.
Bloys declined to give an initial read on HBO Max’ new ad-supported version that launched June 2, saying it was still early days.