AT&T reported early Friday that HBO lost linear subscribers in the second quarter of 2019, but HBO programming chief Casey Bloys clarified at the Television Critics Assn. press tour that under the Home Box Office umbrella, HBO as a network actually gained subscribers, and that the overall figure reflected losses on Cinemax’s end. Comcast and other providers have recently removed Cinemax from some of their cable offerings.
“All I can tell you is it’s being de-packaged, and that is affecting Cinemax, so when they say subscriber loss,” said Bloys, “HBO gained subscribers, Cinemax lost subscribers, and that loss is mostly due to de-packaging.”
HBO has been infused with more resources since AT&T became its parent company, which has manifested in the premium cabler’s slate in 2019.
“If you think about the first half of the year, we had ‘True Detective,’ ‘Finding Neverland,’ ‘Veep,’ ‘Barry,’ ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Gentleman Jack,’ ‘Chernobyl,’ ‘Euphoria,’ ‘Big Little Lies’ – that lineup would not have been possible two years ago,” said Bloys. “There’s some really big shows. That would’ve filled an entire year a couple of years ago. But to have that much in just half a year? That just shows the commitment that AT&T is making to our programming.”
The back half of the programming year, which includes ‘Succession,’ ‘Righteous Gemstones,’ ‘Mrs. Fletcher,’ the final season of ‘The Deuce,’ ‘His Dark Materials,’ ‘Catherine the Great’ and ‘Silicon Valley,’ is similarly dense.
Resource-wise, Bloys said that 2019 is “a very good indicator of what the future will look like,” and that the programming budget is likely to stabilize along those lines in the coming years.
Of course, now that “Game of Thrones” has ended, those resources are being deployed elsewhere. “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are said to be shopping for an overall deal, though it is not clear yet where they will land. Bloys has given them his blessing.
“I think wherever they end up, they’ll be lucky to have them,” he said. “They’re some of the best showrunners I’ve ever worked with, and in this talent marketplace, I think everybody should go and get whatever they can. Who knows how long this market will last, so everybody’s gotta go out and get paid.”
The HBO programming chief stayed mostly mum on the forthcoming HBO Max direct-to-consumer streamer from WarnerMedia; AT&T head Randall Stephenson promised earlier Wednesday during the telecom’s earnings call that more details would be coming in October.
With HBO positioned as the core of HBO Max, Bloys isn’t concerned about any brand confusion among consumers. Since Richard Plepler left as head of HBO, the transition to working under WarnerMedia Entertainment and direct-to-consumer chairman Bob Greenblatt has been smooth, he said, with little concern for development entanglements.
“[WarnerMedia original content chief Sarah Aubrey] and I have known each other a long time,” said Bloys, adding that “It’s usually pretty apparent whether a show should be on HBO or at Max.”