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.
Then 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?
** 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.