HBO News Blog

Changing of Command at HBO and what It Could Mean

By Jef Dinsmore on Jun 17, 2016 to HBO News

Casey Bloys and Michael Lombardo

Casey Bloys and Michael Lombardo

Late last month big business news occurred at HBO. Since most of you just want your GAME OF THRONES news we didn’t report it here, but Michael Lombardo has stepped down as President of Programming to be replaced by Casey Bloys in that office. That title means that the person who holds it oversees all aspects of content for the channel. That means at the end of the day that HBO Films president Len Amato, HBO Miniseries and Cinemax programming president Kary Antholis; HBO Sports executive vice president Peter Nelson and HBO Documentaries and Families president Sheila Nevins answer to that office. Only above the President of Programming is CEO Richard Plepler.

A lot of responsibility rides on the president’s office. During his tenure Lombardo has seen the fruition of such works as top Drama GAME OF THRONES, Top Comedy VEEP, LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER, SILICON VALLEY, GIRLS and dramas TRUE BLOOD, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, TRUE DETECTIVE and VINYL and others. Now it is Bloys’ turn to steer the course of content for the premium network.

And in that lies our interest. Business promotions are one thing, but what fans want to know is what that means in way of content. HBO, through still offering acclaimed and award winning programming has struggled as of late against the increasingly aggressive battleground that is the TV landscape. For a moment let’s look at the problems that have surfaced as of late. First, is a few stumbles on the series front. TRUE DETECTICE Season Two and VINYL were not as strong as hoped. Thus, Pizzolatto is in limbo and VINYL will get revamped a bit before returning. Also the end is in sight for THE LEFTOVERS and eventually even GAME OF THRONES. Replacing them at best will appear to be limited series and though they may be good they are not long term investments for an audience. There are series, both comedy and drama in the pipeline, but we have seen so little of them so far to give us hope.Will DIVORCE and INSECURE hit it out of the park? When is the last time you heard anything about LEWIS AND CLARK or THE MIGHTY EIGHTH? They should be great if we ever get to see them.

HBO_LogoGoldThen there is all those concepts that have got away or just gone nowhere. Some of them could not be worked out like the David Fincher’s projects, plus Whitney Cummings and Sarah Silverman have been trying forever it seems to get something going. Others were killed off because they were financially unwieldy or not fitting HBO’s ‘brand.” Well, we will never see the likes of Asimov’s FOUNDATION series if they can’t even afford THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. Also slipping away are works like AMERICAN GODS which Starz now has. THE DEVIL YOU KNOW and VIRTUOSO are also dead. The other networks seem to be working hard to make programming stick, but HBO doesn’t seem to be working that hard at it. It turns away a lot of concepts. Hell, I would rather one season of THE BRINK or LUCK, even HBO Canada, HBO Europe, HBO Nordic or HBO Asia product on the U. S. channel then repeats of the same content over and over. 

 I full-heartedly believe the recent statements made by OZ creator Tom Fontana when he stated “they became afraid.” Check the provided link because I could go on for several more paragraphs on that thought. In fact, there is a lot more rumination that can be done on this subject. The point is under Bloys’ care maybe the business plan will change. As for Lombardo, he is not out of the equation because he wants to put up a producer shingle and develop for the company he worked so hard at. Together the collective team at HBO could continue to do great things and take the risk to do even more. That, in the end, is what we want to see.

What could/should HBO do to stay competitive with the rest of the TV dial?

** Expand its fictional series to other nights besides Sundays. Right now, your eyes could wonder off of HBO most nights of the week, as long as you start off the week with its Sunday fare. And those eyes do go to other networks too. SHOW OFF THE BRAND!

** Again, take the risks and diversify. I don’t mean show the variety of race and lifestyles that are a part of our world (you already do that), but diversify the genres of shows you present. Think how, with HBO production quality behind it, AMC’s Turn: Washington’s Spies, STARZ’ Black Sails, Amazon’s The Man In the High Castle or even The Good Wife, Person of Interest or Empire would have played on HBO? EXPAND THE BRAND

** Showcase International content. Hurting for a series? How about subtitling HBO Latino, HBO Nordic or HBO Asia content on the U.S. feed? We just might like it. EXPLORE THE BRAND

** Ramp up the specials, the sports and even the kids programming to keep HBO exciting. ENRICH THE BRAND.

It can be done and hopefully Bloys can do it. You get the idea. I have plenty more thoughts on the matter, but let’s hear from you in the comments below.   

  • Scott Levine

    Is there any word on if David Fincher’s “Living on Video” is getting revamped?

    • Jef Dinsmore

      It is not known at this time whether Bloys will reopen dialogue with Fincher regarding either of is concepts.

      • Scott Levine

        Thanks….it seems like it could be as good as silicon valley and entourage

  • billy

    IF Westworld is a hit this fall(new trailer this sun before GOT) I think people will be saying ,with two major blockbusters , “WOW HBO is doing so good” but I agree ,right much wasted money at projects that do not see the light of day. Look for some big changes: more series, docs., and limited series, I think sunday night will increase to 3 hours of scripted series(starting at 8 versus 9)

  • I agree on most of what you’ve said. HBO has rejected lots of good stuff, I was quite gutted that they passed on American Gods because of Game of Thrones, per what Bryan Fuller said,even if there is no relation whatsoever between the two. The same goes for other projects that sounded very promising.

    Also, your suggestion of airing subtitled foreign productions is spot on, HBO Latino actually produces great stuff, International Emmy grade stuff, some of it is being aired right now in the UK on WalterPresents service, and HBO Europe produced Umbre which turned out to be one of the best european productions of that year. So yeah, there’s some potential in that stuff that should be harnessed, and the competitors proved that there is a demand for subtitled foreign tv series, so it’s not a total gamble.

    Nice article, by the way.

  • Essentially Lombardo put HBO into decline since the Golden Age of Chris Albrecht, because he caved in to making $ and populism rather than quality and unrestricted license for the truly talented filmmakers. It would be so difficult to undo any of those moves now. But as long as they give work to David Simon and his team, as long as they make good documentaries, the channel will not die completely, so there is hope.










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