Over the last two decades, HBO has been home to many of the biggest hit shows on American television. From The Sopranos to Sex and the City to Game of Thrones, the premium cable network has had more than its share of massive successes. And interestingly, all of those shows had one key thing in common: a Sunday night time slot. Over the years, viewers have simply come to expect that Sunday night is the night to catch their favorite HBO shows.
The network is now attempting to change that perception. The New York Times recently reported that HBO is making a big push to rebrand its Mondays, putting them on an equal footing with Sundays in terms of premium shows on the network’s airwaves. With streaming services like Netflix mounting steep competition and HBO feeling the pressure to add another day of top-notch shows to the lineup. The limited series Chernobyl, which is slated to premiere in May, will be the first headliner; the drama The Deuce is expected to follow suit.
“Every show that we’re putting on is Sunday night-quality programming,” said Casey Bloys, president of programming at HBO. “That happened to be our flagship night for flagship shows. But all of these shows that we’re programming are worthy of the HBO brand, or we wouldn’t do it.”
Stepping up its Monday game enables HBO to be more competitive with the streaming services, which of course have no “time slots” and thus no constraints on how many hours of content they can provide. That competition is sure to heat up. The Times reported that HBO plans to broadcast 150 hours of original scripted content in 2019, a figure that’s up 50 percent from just last year. Bloys says he anticipates that number will rise even more in 2020. Quantity is the new name of the game for HBO; Game of Thrones, the network’s biggest hit of all time, will be going off the air this calendar year, but there will be scores of new shows ready to collectively fill its shoes.
It’s been argued that in the modern TV era, with viewers choosing to stream shows at all hours of the week, the Sunday night time slot was largely a symbolic one anyway. People’s habits are changing—Bloys told the Times that five years ago that 35 percent of people watching True Blood did so on Sunday night. With Big Little Lies, a comparable show that aired on Sunday nights in 2017, that same figure was down to 10 percent. HBO is betting on the idea that it’s no longer about timing; rather, the name of the game is a high volume of good content.
“It’s not just about filling hours,” Bloys said. “It’s just about doing more HBO-level programming.”
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