Press Tour ’11 Live-Blog: HBO Executive Session

07.28.11 6 years ago 6 Comments

HBO

I’m not sure what big questions the Television Critics Association is going to have for HBO Co-President Richard Plepler and for HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo, but click through for any updates on “Game of Thrones,” “Luck” or whatever else gets discussed…

3:08 p.m. This may end up being a live-style blog, because TCA Ballroom Wifi remains a mini-disaster. After a dud of a stand-up routine, Bill Maher kicks over to Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo.

3:08 p.m. Are they fonder of “the genre” now after the success of “Game of Thrones”? “I think the show was a great surprise to a lot of people who thought it was going to be about fantasy,” Plepler says. Lombardo adds, “I’m still not a fan of the genre, but I love the show. That doesn’t mean I’m going to watch another fantasy show, but I’d certainly be open to another one.” 

3:08 p.m. This may end up being a live-style blog, because TCA Ballroom Wifi remains a mini-disaster. After a dud of a stand-up routine, Bill Maher kicks over to Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo

3:08 p.m. Are they fonder of “the genre” now after the success of “Game of Thrones”? “I think the show was a great surprise to a lot of people who thought it was going to be about fantasy,” Plepler says. Lombardo adds, “I’m still not a fan of the genre, but I love the show. That doesn’t mean I’m going to watch another fantasy show, but I’d certainly be open to another one.”

3:10 p.m. What are their expectations for “Bored to Death” and “Enlightened” on Mondays? Lombardo says that they were in “the happy, but complicated position of scheduling five shows,” hence moving outside of their Sunday bubble. Lombardo says they’re “nervously optimistic,” but emphasizes that between HBOGo and OnDemand and replay viewing, both comedies will find an audience. “We’re excited about it,” Lombardo says. Plepler says that 60 percent of HBO’s viewing is on non-premiere nights.

3:12 p.m. Boxing is an important component of HBO sports still, 70 percent, in fact. 

3:13 p.m. HBO is still in active development on a Kennedy assassination miniseries produced by Tom Hanks.

3:14 p.m. What are HBO’s weaknesses? “I think we have some really strong dramas…” Lombardo begins. “I think in the half-hour area we have some great shows. We’d love for some of those shows to pop out a little more,” Lombardo adds, saying that what they always worry about is “the next great show.” “Instead of weaknesses, I would call it challenges,” clarifies Plepler. He then calls it “a high-class problem” that they’re looking for the next big show.

3:16 p.m. Lombardo says HBO has yet to get so saturated that they’re basing pilot decisions on space.

3:16 p.m. They just got two scripts for possible “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” stand-alone movies. They’re looking at them now, but no decisions have been made.

3:17 p.m. Are there too many regulars on HBO shows? Do they need to start looking for smaller pieces? Or for bigger ensembles? “We don’t develop that way,” Lombardo says.

3:18 p.m. “We know we’ve succeeded partially by his satisfaction,” Plepler says of the very pleased George R.R. Martin. Plepler adds, “We told George we’d go as long as he kept writing.”

3:20 p.m. “The customers should tell Time-Warner cable to get with it, because there’s no HBOGo,” Plepler tells us to write in our publications. Done and done, I suppose.

3:21 p.m. Where is “Luck”? “Michael and David are working in post on it,” Lombardo says, hinting that “Luck” will premiere at the beginning of January in 2012. They’re being saved for January TCA.

3:21 p.m. “True Blood” is currently hovering near 13 million viewers per week, with only 50 percent watching on premiere night. “The people do not feel pressed that they have to watch… on Sunday,” Plepler says. “It gives your viewer flexibility and that’s a wonderful part of the value proposition of the network.” Lombardo says that there’s an appetite for people watching when they want to, rather than “appointment viewing.” “They’re selling eyeballs to viewers and we’re selling a brand,” Plepler says. The execs agree the only degree to which they care about premiere numbers is the degree to which we write about the numbers even though they tell us it doesn’t matter. 

3:25 p.m. Plepler says that HBO is betting on talent. “We’re also not determining success on the basis of numbers. We’re determining success on the basis of quality and we believe the numbers will follow.” Plepler adds that a lower-rated show like “Treme” is part of the network’s “canvas.”

3:26 p.m. Mo Ryan is concerned by what will happen to “Game of Thrones” in later seasons if they stick to the season-per-book pace. “If we could do 12 episodes of a show like ‘Game of Thrones,’ we would,” Lombardo says. He says that “there is no way they could physically do more than 10,” without sacrificing quality. “I can promise you that we won’t stop it before it’s ready to stop,” Lombardo adds. Lombardo hasn’t read the books and he says he isn’t telling the “Game of Thrones” guys that they need to do a story-per-season. Plepler says that Weiss and Benioff are “the best protection you have” against the fears that the show could become too plot-crammed.

3:29 p.m. How about HBO in SD vs. HBO in HD? Will there be a time when HBO SD may cease to exist? Plepler says that viewer satisfaction is higher on HD and that he can imagine a time when SD technology would be totally outmoded.

3:30 p.m. “It’s disappointing to us because it prevents some of the writers, producers and directors from being recognized, but there’s nothing we can do about it,” Plepler says of the Emmy decision to fold movies and miniseries into the same category. “They are two distinct genres,” Lombardo says, complaining that there are several classifications within reality and that there are now “fewer categories available.”

3:32 p.m. “The production challenges for this particular season far exceed even what we looked at last season… I think that’s the beauty of the books,” Lombardo says of “Game of Thrones.” A reporter worries that unlike “Deadwood,” there will be major problems with fans if the story finishes in the middle. “He is linked to everything they’re doing. It’s not like he’s disappeared,” Plepler says of Martin. “I don’t know where the show for us ends as opposed to the books,” Lombardo says carefully. So they’re not committing to running “Game of Thrones” forever. “I think the challenge for us is always, how long do the creators want to stay with the show?” Lombardo ponders. “Dan and David have signed on for a couple years and we’re going to have that conversations with them every couple years,” Lombardo adds. He takes very seriously the relationship the show has with its fanbase, noting the audience’s attention to even the smallest detail. “That’s a relationship that we’re obviously very aware of and respectful of,” Lombardo closes. 

That’s all…

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