Both Chief Executive Richard Plepler and President of Programming Casey Bloys were out this past week talking about their entertainment giant and just some of the big news surrounding it. Of course, they could not talk about the broad spectrum of everything on their plate, but they did each have an agenda of what they wanted to discuss in their respective forums.
This piece will break it down starting with Richard Plepler’s sit down with Gerard Baker of The Wall Street Journal. Joining in on the conversation was VICE’s Shane Smith as a point of discussion was the newly launched VICE NEWS TONIGHT. Also, a big topic was the possible AT&T/Time Warner merger.
In the accompanying video you will hear Plepler say, “A sub is a sub.” That translates into – a pay channel subscriber is a pay channel subscriber. It doesn’t matter how you get them.
Plepler was also a bit cryptic on the second subject of the event, VICE NEW TONIGHT. As is usual for HBO actual viewership numbers were never uttered. Shane Smith, though, had quite a bit to say. He seems quite pleased with what they have been able to accomplish and hopes to even become more entrenched & groundbreaking in the newscasting venture.
The FierceCable site had some interesting points to add as they snagged quotes from Plepler lately as well:
During Time Warner’s third-quarter earnings call today, Plepler clarified HBO’s original content strategy going forward as AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of HBO’s parent company looms.
“This gets obscured a lot. We have four Hollywood movie studios which make up more than 70 percent of viewing and 68 percent of on-demand viewing. It’s a huge part of our offering,” said Plepler, adding that 92 percent of HBO subscribers watch a movie at least once a month. The question likely arose as HBO is dealing with competition from the likes of Netflix and Amazon, which are outspending the premium network stalwart on original content and producing higher volumes of programs and films because of it.
“More isn’t better. Only better is better. We’re not trying to just spend money. We’re trying spend money thoughtfully and to differentiate high-quality programming and build more addicts across our subscriber base. I like to think that our track record is pretty good at doing that over the last decade,” said Plepler. “If you look out at our program lineup going forward, you’ll see that we have every confidence that we’re going to continue that. I like our mix, I like our investments and I think what we’re putting together in terms of a value proposition is extraordinary.”
While HBO’s $2 billion content budget falls behind the $6 billion and $3 billion being spent by Netflix and Amazon respectively, the network is about to get an OTT distribution boost from AT&T…
What all this means is that the landscape is changing and HBO, like everything else, has to change with it. But, as we well know, it doesn’t seem to care about quantity (scripted dramas only on Sundays is evidence of that) but about quality ( top awards are evidence of that).
Now on to what Casey Bloys had to say about more specific content. Our facts come for Variety. Here are portions of that interview:
Variety: Do you want another season of “The Night Of”?
Casey Bloys: Yes, absolutely. The only issue with doing another season is for them to come up with an idea that excites them. Steve [Zaillian] and Richard [Price] are talking and sharing ideas. I think it’ll be a longer process, probably. Both of them take their time and will only do something they’re really passionate and excited about. They’re not going to do another season just to do another season.
V: Would another season be just one case again?
CB: I don’t know. My guess is, it would be [one case in a season]. I think they’re talking about a lot of different variations, so at this point, all I know is that they’re talking about it. They haven’t come to us with anything. They’re just trying to get themselves excited about a take.
V: Would it be with John Turturro again?
CB: That would be my hope. I think that’s what they’re thinking. But all of it is speculation at this point.
V: You haven’t renewed “Westworld” yet. What’s going on there?
CB: I want to get a very complete picture of the ratings, which seem to be doing very well, so we’re happy with that. [The executive producers are] going to talk to us about what they envision a second season being. But right now I would say it’s looking really good. We’re very pleased with how it’s doing.
V: What would you tell people to look for in the second half of the season?
CB: All I would say is, it’s a very satisfying end. I think questions will be answered. I love reading the fan theories online. I think it’s great the way people have engaged. I’m just pleased to see the reception from an engagement point of view, and that it has started all of these conversations. I think people will get the answers they’re looking for by the end of Season One. A lot of the ones that people are buzzing about.
V: Have some people have already guessed correctly?
CB: There are a lot of theories out there, and with some of them, I’ve been very impressed with how they’ve constructed the guesses. I’ll just say, they’re getting close.
V: You have these two tentpole epics in “Westworld” and “Game of Thrones.” But aside from those shows, in the one-hour realm, it doesn’t feel like you’re commissioning a lot of other tentpole-ish shows. Is it fair to say that?
CB: What I would like to see on the hour side is what we did on the half-hour side. We did everything from “Getting On” to “Ballers,” and everything in between, in terms of scope, scale, diversity, location. Having “Game of Thrones” and now hopefully “Westworld” going forward are two great tentpoles to have. I think that we will continue to develop other versions of a big event show. But I would also like to have shows that are not genre. Shows about families or shows that are smaller in scale, or shows that don’t take place in mythical realms. As I said at TCA, I’d like to have a little bit more diversity in all senses of the world on the drama slate.
V: Canceling “Vinyl” — hard or easy?
CB: Hard, because it means 250 jobs. It’s not something you can take lightly. Even if it’s a show that didn’t necessarily land the way we would have hoped, people put their creative energy and passion into it, so it’s never easy to do that. But it felt like the right thing to do for HBO. So from that perspective, I feel like it was the right decision. But it’s never an easy thing to say no to somebody or tell somebody they’re out of work.
We thought that 2016 with the introduction of WESTWORLD & THE NIGHT OF was going to make for an interesting year now we are saying it for 2017. Just how will it all play out? We will be paying close attention.