HBO Programming Chief Says AT&T Has ‘No Plans to Dilute’ Brand

Casey Bloys
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New corporate parent AT&T’s plans for HBO will not spread the pay cabler’s programming offering too thin, according to programming president Casey Bloys.

“There are no plans to dilute the HBO brand in favor of volume of programming,” Bloys said Wednesday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour. “No one has come to us and asked us to not do what we do, which is curate excellence.”

Bloys’ remarks came nearly three weeks after the New York Times published a story detailing an internal HBO town-hall meeting with John Stankey, a longtime AT&T exec who, following the company’s acquisition of the former Time Warner, now oversees the newly acquired media portfolio, including HBO. In that meeting, in which he appeared with HBO chief executive Richard Plepler, Stankey indicated that the network needs to quickly grow its volume of original programming to better compete with Netflix.

“John and AT&T have been very complimentary about what we do,” Bloys said. “Since I started, Richard has been very vocal both internally and publicly about the need for more investment. So what I heard in the meeting with John is someone talking about investing in programming, which is music to our ears.”

Bloys pointed to Stankey’s comments from Tuesday’s second-quarter AT&T earnings call promising that an increase in programming budget for HBO will come soon.

“One of the challenges that we had the last couple of years was that working at Time Warner, we were at a corporate entity that was preparing itself for sale as opposed to investing in programming,” Bloys said. “So this is the first time in a longtime we’ve heard anybody talk about investing in programming. I treat that as very exciting.”

Bloys also spoke about this month’s Emmy nominations. Netflix this year drew 112 nominations to HBO’s 108 — the first time in 18 years that HBO has not led all networks in the number of nominations.

“The Emmy nominations were not a surprise to us at all given the volume of all the programming” that Netflix mounts on its platform, Boys said. He contended that HBO and Netflix’s rivalry is not nearly so bitter as it is often made out to be, giving a nod to the streamer’s top programming execs, Ted Sarandos and Cindy Holland. “Let me say here I want to congratulate Netflix and Ted and Cindy,” he said. “They should be proud.”

Bloys also addressed a number of current and future projects:

• He defended sci-fi drama “Westworld,” countering a question that alleged broad criticism of the show. “I wouldn’t agree that the backlash was widespread,” he said, adding, “What I love about ‘Westworld’ is that people love it,” and those who don’t still feel compelled to talk about it. About the show’s gun violence, Bloys said that it is not “an overriding concern,” but added, “depending on where Season 3 is set, it may dissipate.”

• The decision to move forward on a second season of “The Deuce” following misconduct allegations against star James Franco not related to the show, Bloys said, came after internal discussions and a conversation with producers and cast. “We all felt comfortable moving forward with a second season,” he said.

• Pressed on a premiere date for the upcoming final season of “Game of Thrones,” Bloys said that he was hopeful it would premiere in the first half of 2019. The third season of “True Detective,” he added, would likely premiere toward the beginning of 2019.

• Work has already begun on the next season of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Bloys said. “He’s working on a season. He’ll be back when he says he’s ready, but I think he’ll be back soon. I think Larry David is a classic, an evergreen.”

• Speaking about the decision to cancel Alan Ball’s “Here and Now” after one season, Bloys said, “I hate to reduce it to sometimes a show comes together and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s all it was. If someone asked me again ‘Would you want to be an Alan Ball family show with supernatural elements?’ I would say yes.”

• Bloys said that the pilot for Damon Lindelof’s “Watchmen” will be complete and screened for executives in a matter of weeks, and that the series could head into production “as soon as possible”

• A “Deadwood” movie has been given a greenlight.

• Bloys said that the writers room for the final season of “Veep” recently came together. He predicted that the season would begin shooting in the fall and premiere in the spring of next year.