HBO has built a strong reputation as a television network by producing two decades of top-notch content. With The Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones, and many other classic shows to its name, HBO has become known for putting quality over quantity. Now, though, there’s a good chance that the network will undergo some changes. With AT&T now calling the shots, HBO may soon pivot toward cranking out more content, looking to compete with the biggest and most profitable brands in digital media.
John Stankey, a longtime AT&T executive who now oversees HBO, told The New York Times that he wanted to build a stronger subscriber base and secure greater viewer engagement. While he never uttered the word “Netflix,” the Times noted, he did hint that the company would be more competitive if it behaved like one of the streaming giants.
“We need hours a day,” Stankey said. “It’s not hours a week, and it’s not hours a month. We need hours a day. You are competing with devices that sit in people’s hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes. I want more hours of engagement.”
Stankey noted that the more hours of engagement you get from viewers, the easier it becomes to gather data about customer preferences and use it to tailor your future content choices. HBO has done well with its recent programming—the success of shows like Big Little Lies, Barry, and Insecure has kept the brand strong—but Stankey’s strategy is one geared more toward long-term success, not just finding the next hit show.
The HBO business model has largely been successful over the years. The network has 40 million subscribers in the United States and a total of 142 million worldwide, and it has made nearly $6 billion in profits over the last three years. But the way the AT&T brass sees it, it will be difficult for HBO to stay competitive into the next decade without adapting to the post-Netflix era.
“It’s going to be a tough year,” Stankey said. “It’s going to be a lot of work to alter and change direction a little bit.”
Photo: The HBO website displaying its hit series, “Insecure.” Credit: Casimiro PT / Shutterstock.com