HBO Boss Blasts Starz's 'Ballers' Dig, Asks: "What's 'Survivor's Remorse'?"

dwayne johnson Ballers jessie usher Survivors Remorse Split - H 2015
Courtesy of HBO; Courtesy of Starz

dwayne johnson Ballers jessie usher Survivors Remorse Split - H 2015

No one is more competitive than athletes, and now the networks behind two of TV's scripted sports shows are going head-to-head.

During HBO's portion of the Television Critics Association summer press tour Thursday, Ballers star and exec producer Dwayne Johnson was asked about a recent mailer from rival pay cabler Starz, which pitted Survivor's Remorse, which centers on the world of professional basketball, against his freshman football comedy. Specifically, the Starz mailer described Ballersreviews as "mediocre," and claimed that "many critics … said that Survivor’s Remorse was funnier, better written and an overall better show."

Though Johnson dodged the question — he said only that there's "always room for improvement" – his boss, HBO programming president Michael Lombardo, quickly went on the defense: "When you said it, I thought, 'What's Survivor's Remorse?" Lombardo said from stage.

"Some critics loved Ballers, some didn’t," he continued, but emphasized Ballers' impressive viewership — the show is averaging 9 million viewers, making it the network's highest rated comedy in more than a half a decade. "We make this for the consumer and I really feel a vote confidence from them."

Lombardo went on to call the release "an odd marketing tactic" by Starz, which is led by former HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrect. Albrecht, who led the network during the Sex and the City and The Sopranos era, abruptly exited in 2007. He has been president and CEO of Starz since 2010.

"I don’t think we need to be in a slap down with Survivor's Remorse or any show," Lombardo kept going. "I think Ballers has started its own ascendency and path and it will continue, as every great show does, to get richer and deeper and better."

When asked for comment on Lombardo's remarks, a Starz spokesperson told THR, "We would never take a swipe at another programmer. We will leave that to the critics."