For WarnerMedia insiders, launch day is “really is just the beginning,” Bob Greenblatt, chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct to Consumer, tells Variety podcast “Strictly Business.”
WarnerMedia plans to integrate new programming features and technical elements every six to eight weeks in the early months as the service finds its sea legs and inevitably has bugs to work out. “Everyone is working around the clock,” Greenblatt said.
A big focus for HBO Max is on offering a well-curated programming menu for users. WarnerMedia executives made a considered decision not to put everything in the library up all at once.
“We’re trying to find new ways for people to navigate through these platforms,” Greenblatt said. “I think we’re all frustrated to some degree with the volume (of content) on these platforms… We’re really trying to make it feel like a curated experience. I know that’s an overused word but I haven’t found a better one.”
Having the HBO brand at the core of the service also provided some guiding principles.
“We knew that having HBO be fundamental to the platform was going to keep the stakes really high for us, yet we also knew that brand means something to the audience not only here domestically but around the world,” Greenblatt said. “We wanted to assign ourselves the task that any of the programming we add to this service … has got to be at that kind of quality level.”
Greenblatt noted that the HBO brand itself has been built on quality control and curation.
“They don’t make hundreds and hundreds of original shows. But the shows they do make are really of the highest quality,” he said.
The coronavirus outbreak complicated the process of getting HBO Max ready for its close-up. But there was never much consideration given to delaying the launch, even if it meant not having the much talked-about “Friends” reunion in time for day one. Greenblatt said the hope is to film the special in late summer.
“We’re holding out for being able to get this special done hopefully by the end of the summer, if the stars align and hopefully we can get back into production,” Greenblatt said. “We do think there’s a value to having a big, raucous live audience to experience these six great friends coming back together and we didn’t want to just suddenly do it on a web call with, you know, six squares and people shooting from their kitchens and bedrooms.”
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
(Pictured: Cynthia Littleton, Variety business editor and “Strictly Business” co-host, and WarnerMedia’s Bob Greenblatt)