Bob Greenblatt, Casey Bloys on HBO’s Growth, Curation Technique and Hunt for ‘Sport of Thrones’ Successors


HBO as soon as boldly proclaimed to America “It’s Not TV — It’s HBO.” A 2019 spin on that slogan may regulate it to “Handcrafted HBO.”

On the heels of a company takeover by AT&T and administration upheaval with the departure of Richard Plepler and arrival of Bob Grenblatt, the brand new regime at HBO has emerged with a easy message for the artistic group: Come to us if you’d like the artisanal tv expertise.

Greenblatt, who signed on final month as WarnerMedia Leisure chairman, and HBO programming chief Casey Bloys outlined their plans for transferring on after the top of “Sport of Thrones,” which premiered started its six-episode closing season on Sunday, in an April 11 interview with Selection. The HBO leaders provided their ideas on the programming market on the heels of high-wattage content material unveilings from Disney final week and Apple late final month.

Greenblatt, the previous leisure chief for Showtime and NBC, mentioned HBO’s pitch to the artistic group isn’t a lot modified regardless of the tidal wave of recent competitors from streaming shops and different cablers. HBO prides itself on being a haven for creators, more often than not. That’s a distinction to its major aggressive goal, Netflix, which is dealing with rising concern amongst creatives that new exhibits will be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of content material on the platform.

HBO can also’t probably meet up with Netflix’s $eight billion-plus unique content material price range. The unique pay TV powerhouse has obtained a lift in assets due to the AT&T takeover of the previous Time Warner, however HBO because it stands can solely take up a lot extra quantity. “We don’t have the Netflix enterprise mannequin and we by no means will,” Greenblatt mentioned.

HBO already had already been on a diversification push through the previous decade to broaden its attain in documentary, sports activities, life-style, information and foreign-language programming.

“I do acknowledge that we’re in a loopy time of quantity and velocity. Now we have to extend the quantity a bit bit, however we need to do it in a very considerate method that continues to draft off the repute this firm has had for years,” Greenblatt mentioned. “We make issues thoughtfully and by hand. We give writers and producers an expertise that nobody else can provide them.”

Bloys mentioned the incessant query he’s obtained over the previous 12 months about how HBO will survive with out its “Sport of Thrones”-level international juggernaut misses the mark.

“I don’t assume there may be going to be a subsequent ‘Sport of Thrones,’“ Bloys mentioned.

“GoT” was more likely to be a once-in-a-generation present for the paybox. The main focus now could be on providing a menu of programming so distinctive as to maintain subscribers paying $15 a month. Bloys factors to the vary of audiences focused in unique sequence productions, starting from the teenager drama “Euphoria” to Damon Lindelof’s tackle the comic-based “Watchmen” franchise to Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s “His Darkish Supplies” trilogy to a brand new comedy, “The Righteous Gems” evangelical spoof, hailing from the raunch-com workforce of Danny McBride, Jody Hill and David Gordon Inexperienced.

Bloys mentioned HBO had realized the good thing about the AT&T takeover of Time Warner by the promised funding in HBO’s programming at a time of cut-throat competitors within the international streaming race. However HBO continues to be centered on a selective breed of present.

“We’re doing greater than we ever have earlier than,” Bloys mentioned. “However we’re not doing exhibits we wouldn’t have carried out earlier than. We’re not including issues simply to get to a sure variety of hours of programming.”

Greenblatt mentioned he had no intention of instituting a significant shift within the artistic course of HBO’s programming. He emphasised what he discovered about HBO’s distinctive tradition by his expertise almost 20 years in the past as an govt producer of the 2001-2005 HBO drama sequence “Six Toes Below.” Greenblatt mentioned he goals to take care of its repute for offering a powerful basis for artists to pursue their artistic imaginative and prescient.

“We’re a curated, hand-wrought enterprise,” Greenblatt says. “There’s no laptop placing issues collectively or discovering audiences for sure exhibits to enchantment to. It’s carried out the old school method, with individuals. We’re going to extend the quantity and the tempo of a few of our programming however we’ll do it in a really manageable method.”

Greenblatt famous that his problem forward at HBO could be very totally different than the rebuilding missions he undertook throughout his tenure at NBC Leisure, which ended final fall after seven years, and his mission at Showtime from 2003 to 2010.

“HBO is a superbly run firm. I’m thrilled to be a part of it now. I’m thrilled to not should stroll in and say ‘Let’s begin from scratch. Let’s rebuild the home,’” Greenblatt mentioned. “I need to protect the identical stunning expertise that I had right here, albeit on a little bit of a grander scale. However there’s not something that I basically need to change.”

HBO is making an attempt to take care of its gloss as a premium content material participant even because the inflow of recent cash from streaming shops bids up the worth of high expertise. Bloys mentioned even with the raging arms race for expertise, HBO isn’t wanting for big-name stars.

To wit, Meryl Streep is about to make a splashy TV drama sequence debut in June on the second installment of “Huge Little Lies.” The remainder of HBO’s 2019 and 2020 slate is dotted with boldface trade names together with Kate Winslet, Ben Mendelsohn, J.J. Abrams, Armando Iannucci, Jean-Marc Vallee, Joss Whedon, Helen Mirren, Matthew Rhys, Robert Downey Jr., David E. Kelley and Derek Cianfrance. The roster additionally contains at the least one “Sport of Thrones” prequel prospect, from author Jane Goldman and “Thrones” writer George R. R. Martin.

However the nature of the event course of and the upfront commitments that HBO has to make has positively been affected by the heightened chase for stars and exhibits.

“It’s not been arduous to draw individuals to come back to HBO,” Bloys mentioned. “Due to {the marketplace}, we’ve needed to go extra straight-to-pilot and straight-to-series than we’d have 5 years in the past. That may be scary as a result of it doesn’t provide you with as a lot time to work on issues. Generally we now have to make manufacturing selections faster than we usually would. However it’s not a problem to sit down down with somebody and say ‘Please come right here.’”

Bloys additionally believes HBO’s conventional week-by-week launch schedule for exhibits makes a distinction in a crowded on-demand panorama.

“To not benefit from the entire individuals on the market writing about TV — to not benefit from that vast machine week in and week out can be a mistake,” Bloys mentioned. “I feel it’s an opportunity to have exhibits within the cultural dialog for eight or 10 weeks as a substitute of multi function weekend. Creators actually admire that we do it that method in a world the place a number of content material is getting dumped.”

WarnerMedia plans so as to add one other contender to the fast-transforming pay-TV ecosystem with the launch of its personal streaming platform by 2020. HBO will probably be on the middle of the WarnerMedia providing however will probably be saved distinct from different content material packages assembled from WarnerMedia properties previous and current. Greenblatt mentioned that sustaining HBO’s linear channel enterprise stays a precedence even because the mum or dad firm eyes a worldwide growth of its on-demand companies. Greenblatt famous that HBO’s larger quantity of unique programming implies that the channel is transferring past Sunday as its major residence for originals with new exhibits coming to Monday nights.

“Because the schedule will get bigger it’s vital to us to maintain the linear community robust on the non-digital entrance,” Greenblatt mentioned.

However Greenblatt’s constitution additionally contains overseeing content material for the streaming service. The R&D that WarnerMedia and AT&T are doing on the technological entrance will profit HBO’s on-line presentation.

“Within the subsequent 18 months we need to enhance the expertise as we get able to introduce options into HBO Now and the brand new direct-to-consumer platform we’re constructing,” Greenblatt mentioned. “All of that’s going to assist maintain the linear community sturdy and make us extra aggressive with different streaming platforms.”

Amongst different programming tidbits the pair mentioned:

** Don’t maintain your breath for the controversial “Accomplice” challenge to see the sunshine of day. The drama pilot from “Sport of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B Weiss, set in an alternate historical past the place the South seceded after the Civil Struggle. “Accomplice” drew fireplace from critics sight unseen when the idea was unveiled by HBO in 2017. However now Benioff and Weiss have been tapped to put in writing and direct three “Star Wars” films for Disney. “That was their longtime dream,” Bloys mentioned. “So in 10 years once they’re carried out with that, possibly they’ll be again.”

** Drama “Westworld” will take a break in 2019 earlier than returning for its third season in 2020. Bloys mentioned he’s not anxious in regards to the present dropping momentum after a blended response to season 2 final 12 months. “I don’t really feel it misplaced any buzz. If something, extra individuals are obsessing over it,” Bloys mentioned.

** HBO’s efforts to mine a derivative or two from “GoT” are continuing slowly, by design. The pilot for the Jane Goldman challenge, toplined by Naomi Watts and set 1000 years earlier than the “GoT” timeframe, will probably be shot by helmer S.J. Clarkson in June. “We’re going to take our time and see how this pilot seems,” Bloys mentioned. “We’re going to be very conscious about no matter we do subsequent. It has to make sense for the franchise.”

** The fantasy drama “Euphoria,” a remake of an Israeli hit, is a excessive precedence for HBO this 12 months. Greenblatt mentioned it is going to “be a departure for HBO in a great way with its bracing take a look at teenage life.” The sequence from showrunner Sam Levinson, bows June 16.

** Greenblatt cited the Issa Rae comedy “Insecure” as a main instance of HBO giving a platform to promising newcomers along with established stars. “I don’t know the place [Rae] got here from however HBO put her entrance and middle in a unique form of present within the comedy style,” Greenblatt mentioned. “Seeing someone like that come out and thrive on our air is among the the reason why this can be a actually thrilling time at this firm.”

(Pictured: Casey Bloys, left; Bob Greenblatt, proper)

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