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HBO is about to endure some growing pains as part of a year of change at the cabler. Following AT&T's acquisition of the premium cable network as part of its Time Warner deal, executive John Stankey has taken on a new role as the chief executive of Warner Media. In a town hall discussion that also included HBO's chief executive Richard Plepler, John Stankey explained his aspirations and plans for the future of HBO. Describing his strategies, Stankey said:
You are competing with devices that sit in people's hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes. I want more hours of engagement. Why are more hours of engagement important? Because you get more data and information about a customer that then allows you to do things like monetize through alternate models of advertising as well as subscriptions, which I think is very important to play in tomorrow's world. . . . As I step back and think about what's unique about the brand and where it needs to go, there's got to be a little more depth to it, there's got to be more frequent engagement. [HBO must] build that brand so that it's broad enough to make that happen.
John Stankey's plans would certainly put HBO on another level. Not that the network is struggling where it is now. Far from it! The premium cable network has multiple critically acclaimed and audience revered series to its name, including what is arguably the most popular series in the world: Game of Thrones. There is also Westworld, as well as HBO's flagship series The Sopranos and Sex and the City. The network's profile and profits are far from dwindling.
Along with John Stankey's comments above (via The New York Times), he did not offer an exact amount for the enhanced budget that would be necessary to carry out these plans. This latest update comes after news spread last month that HBO would be on the receiving end of an enhanced budget in the hopes of being more formidable against Netflix. The streaming giant's strategy of nonstop content is having an inarguably positive effect on its standing in entertainment.
Whether HBO embracing a strategy of building up its brand can have a similar effect on its subscribers remains to be seen. While Netflix has given viewers a buffet table of options, that table has not produced only success. And Netflix's ability to spend is something HBO will have to deal with. For HBO's chief executive Richard Plepler, the road to change will not be as simple as flooding the market with new programming. Plepler said:
I've said, 'More is not better, only better is better,' because that was the hand we had. I've switched that, now that you're here, to: 'More isn't better, only better is better --- but we need a lot more to be even better.'
Based on the discussion between the two executives, HBO is gearing up for a year of tremendous modifications. How subscribers will react to them will be another story. While HBO could bulk up its slate of original programming, having a show that does not perform well, in terms of its audience reception, will not be much help. Look no further than the second season of True Detective.
The next couple of years were going to see big changes at HBO anyway as the network prepares to bid farewell to what has become its trademark series when Game of Thrones concludes in 2019. While HBO has been the home to numerous hits, it will undoubtedly be in search of its next breakout. With a Game of Thrones spinoff on the horizon, that may not be too far into the future.
For new upcoming and returning television shows you can watch in the meantime, check out CinemaBlend's guide to TV's summer premieres.