HBO’s Richard Plepler on ‘Confederate’ Controversy: ‘We Screwed Up’

The controversy surrounding HBO’s forthcoming series “Confederate” is the result of a public-relations error, according to the premium channel’s CEO Richard Plepler.

“We screwed up in an important way,” Plepler  said Tuesday at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in Los Angeles. Echoing comments made in July at the TCA press tour by HBO programming president Casey Bloys, Plepler added that the announcement regarding the series order for “Confederate” — from “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, about a fictional world in which the South won the Civil War and slavery thrives in America — lacked the proper context to allow the thinking behind the project to be fully understood.

“Where we screwed up was we tried to announce a complicated subject in a press release of three paragraphs,” Plepler said. “What we should have done is we should have had the creative team sit down with a room full of thoughtful reporters, engage in a Q&A. And when we finish ‘Thrones,’ and when they begin to put pen to paper, and when they form and put meat on the bones of this idea, we will do exactly that. I would say a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth puts on its boots, and that’s kind of what happened here.”

Plepler, interviewed alongside Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom by Vanity Fair’s Krista Smith, also spoke about the unprecedented level of competition that television programmers face as companies such as Netflix, Amazon, and now Apple pour money into original-series development.

“If you imagined even five years ago, let alone 10, that we would be looking out at this many content creators throwing this much money at creative content, making the degree of difficulty that much harder and the margin of error that much smaller, I would have said to you, ‘Eh, probably unlikely,'” Plepler said, pointing to Amazon and Apple’s entrance into the fray as having been particularly tough to anticipate.

Systrom, whose company is owned by Facebook, spoke about the need for social-media to root out the type of propaganda that Russia used to influence the 2016 presidential election.

“In all honesty, every single tech company needs to be worried about this,” Systrom said. “We need to dig, and we need to find out what’s going on, and it’s the right of every single person in this room and every single person in America to know.”

More TV

  • How Cooking-Travel Shows Are Changing TV

    How Cooking-Travel Shows Are Changing TV

    Toyo hunches over his street food stove, cooking tuna with a blow torch, stopping to light his cigarette with it and produce a cheeky grin. The Japanese chef, who owns a roadside stand in the city of Osaka, is one of many highlighted in the Netflix series “Street Food.” Over the course of 30 minutes, [...]


    SAG-AFTRA Leaders Approve Proposal for New Film-TV Contract

    The SAG-AFTRA national board has approved proposals for a successor deal to its master contract covering feature film and primetime television — a key step in the upcoming negotiations cycle with companies. The board approved the package Saturday with the performers union declining to reveal any specifics — its usual policy. The board established the wages [...]

  • Shannen Doherty'Jennie Garth: A Little Bit

    Shannen Doherty Joins 'Riverdale' Season 4 in Luke Perry Tribute

    “Riverdale” is planning to make a special tribute to Luke Perry. The show’s executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa announced at Comic-Con that Shannen Doherty, Perry’s longtime friend and “Beverly Hills 90210” co-star, will guest star in the season 4 premiere. The tribute episode will “reflect Perry’s enduring legacy and the indelible imprint his character” Fred Andrews [...]

  • Supernatural CW

    'Supernatural' Team Gets Emotional Final Season Sendoff at Comic-Con

    The cast and creative team of “Supernatural” bid a fond farewell to the attendees of San Diego Comic-Con on Sunday. At the show’s final panel in the gargantuan Hall H, the team thanked the fans for all of their support over the years as the series prepares to enter its final season. “I’m trying not [...]

  • Alicia Rodis photographed by Alicia Rodis

    SAG-AFTRA Moves to Standardize Guidelines for Intimacy Coordinators

    SAG-AFTRA is moving to standardize guidelines for intimacy coordinators as part of an effort to establish policies for union members when their work involves nudity and simulated sex. “Our goal is to normalize and promote the use of intimacy coordinators within our industry,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “Intimacy coordinators provide an important safety net for [...]

  • SDCC TV News Roundup: Syfy Releases

    SDCC TV News Roundup: Syfy Releases 'The Magicians' Season 5 Clip (Watch)

    In today’s SDCC TV news roundup, Syfy shares a clip from “The Magicians” Season 5, and Amazon sets the Season 4 premiere of “The Expanse.” CASTING Julie Gonzalo and Staz Nair have joined the cast of “Supergirl” for its upcoming fifth season. Gonzalo will portray iconic DC character Andrea Rojas aka Acrata, a polished businesswoman [...]

  • Doom Patrol -- Ep. 101 --

    'Doom Patrol' Renewed, Season 2 to Stream on DC Universe and HBO Max

    “Doom Patrol” has been renewed for a second season and will soon be available outside of DC Universe. At San Diego Comic-Con, series executive producer Jeremy Carver and star Diane Guerrero announced not only that the show will be back for another season but also that it will be available on HBO Max, the upcoming [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content