HBO Programming Chief Talks ‘Game of Thrones’ Endgame, ‘Big Little Lies’ Season 2

The wait will be worth it — that’s the message from HBO programming chief Casey Bloys on the decision to push back the final season of “Game of Thrones” until 2019.

Bloys told Variety the move came at the request of showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who felt they needed more time to deliver the level of spectacle that fans have come to expect from the series. There’s still no word on the length of the six episodes planned for the eighth and final season.

“They take the time they need to do the show at the level of quality they feel comfortable with,” Bloys said Thursday as HBO presented a slew of new programs at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif.  “It’s a big show. As time has gone on there are bigger battle scenes and more dragons. It’s a complicated production. It’s simply a matter of them taking the time they need to execute at the level they feel the fans deserve.”

In an interview, Bloys spoke about the status of the “Thrones” spinoffs in development, progress on Season 2 of “Big Little Lies,” and his efforts to bring a diverse and balanced slate of programs to the pay cabler amid the intense competition for projects.

As for the “Thrones” spinoffs, four teams of writers are beveling away on possible follow-up series. “We’re really happy with what we’re getting — we’re working with really talented people,” he said. But Bloys emphasized there’s no time line for making a pickup decision. HBO could conceivably pickup one or more of the projects, or none. No matter what happens, nothing will hit the air until at least a year after the final “Thrones” season airs.

“We want the focus to be on the final season of the greatest television show,” he said. “We’re not looking to launch a (spinoff) on the back of that.”

As for “Big Little Lies,” the plan is to begin lensing in the spring. The “Big Little Lies” experience has been unusually fulfilling from the get-go. The show that was meant to be a one-off limited series packed with A-listers was so good — and such an awards magnet — that the gang willed themselves back together for a second round.

Director Andrea Arnold is readying for the shoot and David E. Kelley is penning the scripts. It’s expected to run seven episodes, just like the first round.

“It’s exciting. What we’ve seen so far has been terrific,” Bloys said. “This is a really, really great group of people.”

Eighteen months after Bloys was promoted to the top programming job at HBO, he said he has put great focus on ensuring that the channel has a diverse range of programming options for subscribers. Tentpole dramas like “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld” need to be balanced with more intimate offerings such as the upcoming “Succession,” a family sudser revolving around a media baron and his family.

“We’re trying to keep the slate differentiated,” he said. “We’ll have something that is really female-centric like ‘Big Little Lies’ and we’ll have Damon Lindelof working on a terrific script for ‘Watchmen.’ ”

Bloys took the programming reins at a time when the competition for high-end projects has become fierce, now that there are deep-pocketed upstarts playing in the premium sandbox that HBO long owned. Bloys acknowledged that the chase for content is more intense but HBO has no shortage of options or talent coming through the door.

“If there’s something we really want, most of the time I feel like we can get it,” he said.

One of the biggest challenges is that bidding on marquee projects a la “Big Little Lies” requires making bigger upfront commitments that HBO did in the past.

“There are more straight-to-series decisions,” he said. “It’s tough because when you do that there are other things out there that you may not be able to do. It makes you think about your priorities.”

The stakes and the heightened competition has also made the decision on writers, producers and directors to work with all that more important, he added.

“The biggest problem is how to choose the projects and the people you get into business with,” he said. “The projects coming in and the people who are coming in to us are very exciting.”

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