HBO Asks Vito Corleone To Make Streamers An Offer They Can’t Refuse

HBO has long made a business out of launching new, eyebrow-raising series like “Game of Thrones” or “The Sopranos” to drive people to join its subscriber base.  Now it’s digging up the past in a bid to gain more of an audience for its future.

The Time Warner premium-cable service in September showcased a 40th anniversary airing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and in January a rare run of “The Godfather Epic,” a re-edited seven-hour-plus version of Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” and “The Godfather, Part II.” In February, HBO played up the 30th anniversary of the 1986 John Hughes teen-focused movie “Pretty In Pink.”

Like Showtime and Starz, its main rivals, HBO has long used older movies to fill the schedules of its suite of subscriber-based outlets. Now that the company is placing more focus on its HBO Now streaming service, however, it is getting more aggressive in the way it markets the movies to which it has library rights. Executives have scoured its vault to see what properties might be ripe for promotion.

“We are executing a strategy that continues to evolve as more platforms emerge, and there are different ways to across those platforms to highlight those titles, said Meredith Gertler, HBO’s senior vice president of program strategy and planning, in an interview.

Just yesterday, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes acknowledged that HBO would increase the number of hours of original programming by 50%. The company has signed 1 million users to the service, and would clearly like to win more.  And while series like “Girls” and “Last Week Tonight” generally create much of the buzz around the network, there’s no reason an older cult favorite can’t pull some weight as well.

Staffers search for films that are likely to spark a furor among digital users, who might be tempted to use HBO Now to check out the movies, along with related content. “All of the content is at their fingertips, but it’s our job to find simple ways to get them to navigate and discover this content,” said Gertler.

To promote “Pretty In Pink,” HBO used interviews with director Howard Deutch and costume designer Marilyn Vance to lure fans of the project. To tout the 40th anniversary showing of “Rocky Horror” – the first time a high-def remastering of the film has been available HBO deployed videos of emojii meant to represent the action that takes place during some of the off-kilter film’s musical moments. The “Rocky Horror” showing on HBO’s linear channel was at midnight.

HBO is not going the way of TCM, Gertler said. Subscribers should not expect an HBO proxy for  Robert Osborne to come to their screen and put an older film in context. But there is more opportunity to highlight an older movie, particularly when it appeals to digitally savvy consumers who might consider buying HBO Now to watch it, particularly if there’s something rare or unique to be seen. “The Godfather Epic,” for instance, contains scenes not included in the original films – like the murder of Fabrizio, the gun-for-hire who betrayed Michael Corleone and killed his first wife with a car bomb.

Of course, there’s plenty of drama in the pay-cable industry, and HBO rivals also use curation to draw interest to their offerings. CBS Corp.’s Showtime has curated collections of programming on its streaming subscription service. Starz intends to run  a marathon of Marvel movies on April 29, 2016 – “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Ant-Man” as a build up to the premiere in theaters of “Captain America: Civil War” on May 6.

HBO is likely to continue to dust off classics – though its activity will largely depend on what movies are available at any given time. “ I think it would be a missed opportunity not to take advantage of those things,” Gertler said.

More TV

  • Grime Star Stormzy Joins Upcoming BBC

    Grime Star Stormzy Joins Roc Nation Exec Produced BBC Drama ‘Noughts & Crosses’

    “Noughts and Crosses” just added another musical heavy hitter with grime supremo Stormzy set to star in the adaptation of the Malorie Blackman novels for the BBC. Jay-Z’s Roc Nation is already on board and will exec produce, as will Participant Media. Stormzy has an on-screen role and will play Kolawale, a newspaper editor and [...]

  • Cineflix Alum Launches New Banner Fugitive,

    Cineflix Alum Launches New Banner Fugitive, Tees Up Alex Gibney, Yolanda Ramke Shows

    Anthony Kimble, formerly of Cineflix, National Geographic, and Viacom’s Channel 5, has launched Fugitive and will develop, finance, and exec produce drama and unscripted TV through the new banner. Its first projects include “Uncanny Valley: The Truth About Thinking Machines,” which comes from producers Topic and Jigsaw. A series about A.I. and the future of [...]

  • Cineflix Rights Scoops Icelandic Political Series

    Cineflix Rights Scoops Icelandic Political Series 'The Minister'

    Cineflix Rights, a leading U.K. content distributor, has acquired “The Minister,” the anticipated political drama series headlined by Icelandic star Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”). Produced by the Icelandic company Sagafilm, “The Minister” centres on Benedikt Ríkhardsson (Ólafsson), a populist politician who becomes Iceland’s Prime Minister. However, Benedikt is suffering from [...]

  • WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make

    WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make Deals if Agents are Fired

    The Writers Guild of America has authorized managers and lawyers to negotiate deals for writers in place of agents — if the guild tells members to fire their agents on April 7. The guild’s negotiating committee notified members of the plans in a message Wednesday. The WGA and the Association of Talent Agents having made [...]

  • Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna'Jane

    Rachel Bloom on the 'Beautiful Mystery' of the 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' Series Finale

    While four seasons of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” have explored musical genres from boy bands to country, the one type of music series co-creator and star Rachel Bloom admits the show will not explore before the end is Rebecca’s own style. “Basically the idea is that part of the music in her mind is her looking inside [...]

  • Netflix's Lisa Nishimura Named Indie Film,

    Netflix's Lisa Nishimura Named Indie Film, Documentary Features Head

    In the wake of Bela Bajaria’s recent move to lead Netflix’s international non-English original TV series, the online streamer is shuffling its leadership team to more clearly distinguish between development of its English and non-English language content. As a result, Netflix has elevated Lisa Nishimura to vice president of independent film and documentary features, a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content