HBO Boss Talks Emmy Sweep, Resuming Production and 'Watchmen's' Future

Casey Bloys - Getty-H 2020
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO

Casey Bloys

HBO entered Emmys week as an underdog, with its 107 nominations ranking a distant second to Netflix's record haul of 160. But it finished the week in familiar territory: leading all the winners with 30 Emmy wins, besting Netflix by nine on the strength of limited series Watchmen and drama winner Succession.

For HBO programming president Casey Bloys, the wins helped provide a sound answer to questions that popped up among industry watchdogs this time last year: What will the cabler do without Game of Thrones?

Below, Bloys talks with The Hollywood Reporter about what HBO's haul means for the cabler's strategy of content curation as its rival, Netflix, continues to spend billions and play a game of volume. Bloys also weighs in on if Watchmen and 2020 breakout I May Destroy You will be back for additional seasons.

Where were you watching?

I was at home, watching on the couch with my daughter. She did try to leave in the middle of the telecast! I said, 'You can't leave now, you're my good luck charm!' So I made her watch with me. I'm sitting here in my pajamas.

How are you going to celebrate?

I did a Zoom with the Succession cast and crew. I've just been texting and emailing people all night. That's really fun, people sending well wishes. You have to remember nights like this because they don't all end like this.

HBO entered Emmys week as the underdog, facing off against Netflix with a record 160, and you guys were down considerably from last year. To be able to convert 30 of your 107 nominations, what does that tell you about HBO's strategy of curation vs. the volume of Netflix?

On personal level, tonight was really nice because post-Game of Thrones, there were a lot of questions of, 'Oh my God, what is HBO going to do?!' I've been at HBO for 16 years now and I feel like every year it's, 'What is HBO going to do?!' So this is a really nice way to answer that question, what is HBO going to do, post-Game of Thrones. What we've always done at HBO as it regards to any competitor — and Netflix is a really formidable competitor, for sure — the trick is you can be aware of your competition but not distracted by them. We'll continue to do the kinds of shows that we believe in, with creators that we believe in. At some point, the volume game may overtake us, in terms of raw numbers, and that's mathematics. But it's not going to change the kinds of shows we do or why we do them. We'll continue to play our game and do what we're doing.

Were you surprised by the end result — HBO 30, Netflix 21?

I wasn't too focused on the Netflix vs. HBO [narrative]; I was just focused on our shows. I didn't look at the total. I was aware going into [Sunday] that we were tied — I saw your tweet, thank you for letting me know. [Laughs.] I was more paying attention to how our shows were doing. But it's nice when it works out in your favor.

Watchmen led all the winners, in terms of wins by program. How do you feel about making more Watchmen given its performance and how precinct it is? And do you do more without Damon Lindelof?

It's hard. We talked about this after the Watchmen finale. It's hard to imagine doing it without Damon because he's such a special writer. It would be hard for me to imagine; there's no plans for a season two. I shouldn't say season two because if we did another one, it would probably be an all new story and I don't think it would be the same characters. There's no plans. Could it happen? Maybe. There's just no plans for it. I would just say we'll all keep an open mind. There's nothing imminent.

Lindelof is a very important producer for HBO, especially in light of Watchmen's wins. His overall deal is coming up, too. Have you spoken with him about what he wants to do next?

We've talked a couple times about things he's interested in, but there's nothing concrete to talk about.

Succession had a number of big wins, and Zendaya was a surprise winner. What's the latest on return plans for Succession and Euphoria?

We're hoping Succession will go back into production in late fall. Euphoria is probably the top of the year [2021]. Obviously a lot depends on how production goes in light of this pandemic. We have a couple shows that are shooting and so far, so good, knock on wood. Assuming things continue to go smoothly, Succession will be up the end of the year and Euphoria top of the year.

Euphoria is an intimate show, with a lot of crowd scenes and kids. Can HBO make the same show you've made in a pre-vaccine world?

I think you can do a similar show but it's going to be a lot more complicated to do. And I think that's the case for a lot of shows. It's a different environment. I do believe that we can get a show that doesn't look or feel substantially different than season one.

Anticipating the 'What's next for HBO without Watchmen' narrative, what are your hopes for Emmys 2021? Ideally, you have Succession back…

We have to talk about 2021 now?! [Laughing.] 2021 is going to be a strange year because of how COVID-19 has affected production schedules. Shows that we thought would be airing now are going to be pushed into 2021. But so far, we've got Perry Mason, I May Destroy You, Lovecraft Country, The Undoing with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant. We have a bunch of shows that will be in competition next year. There's a couple shows I'm hoping will be ready within the Emmy window that I don't want to say yet because production schedules are a bit up in the air. But we hope to have some other big shows in the spring of 2021. We're working toward it.

Will I May Destroy You be back for another season?

It's not going to come back for another season; well, I don't think it is. We're following Michaela Coel's lead. I don't think that she has any more of that story she wants to tell. But if she called us tomorrow and changed her mind and wanted to do more, I'd be happy to do more. I think she may be thinking of what she wants to do next.

Do you have a deal with her?

No, as far as I know, nobody does. But working with her is a priority.

If the show doesn't come back, will the show compete in the limited series category?

Assuming that she doesn't want to come back, which I feel like is the case, that feels like it would work in the limited series category.