Casey Bloys Talks HBO Max, 'Game of Thrones' Finale and Subscriber Loss Discrepancy

HBO gained subscribers, says the programming president. The losses came from Cinemax.
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HBO programming chief Casey Bloys

Casey Bloys was well-prepared for a Wednesday meeting with TV press. It was the HBO programming president’s first big audience with reporters since a slew of developments at his evolving prestige outlet. 

Game of Thrones ended with a divisive finale (earning a record 32 Emmy nominations in the process); Big Little Lies saw some public fallout over a report that director Andrea Arnold lost creative control of the star-packed series’ second season; parent WarnerMedia announced its upcoming streaming platform would be dubbed HBO Max; and, as of Wednesday morning, AT&T reported that HBO had lost subscribers in the second quarter.

That last matter, at least, was quickly brushed aside. Bloys clarified that HBO the network added subscribers in Q2. It was the larger umbrella of Home Box Office that saw declines, and that was on account of Cinemax’s declining reach. “Cinemax, which is being repackaged, that’s where the losses were,” said the exec, who was unclear on the future of the pay cable sibling.

Speaking to the larger corporate strategy, Bloys talked about HBO’s bulking up original offerings — as evidenced by the first half of the year. He referred to 2019 as a “big leap,” noting the commitment to expanding originals to Monday nights has already paid dividends. Chernobyl, with its 19 Emmy nominations, turned out to be HBO’s most-watched limited series since 2001; 12 million viewers have already watched it across platforms.

“We weren’t just filling hours to fill hours,” said Bloys. “There’s not one show we aired that I wouldn’t have aired two years or five years ago. And Monday is not a night where we’re looking to burn off programming.”

Bloys did briefly acknowledge HBO Max, noting he was “flattered” by the name. Details beyond that, he insisted, would come down the line from Bob Greenblatt — though he anticipated the service being “broader and complementary” to his own programming. “HBO, as it exists, will be the core of any offering,” he said. “And they have given us the funds to assure us of that.”

The bulk of Bloys’ half-hour with the Television Critics Association in Beverly Hills volleyed back and forth over two properties that are, for all intents and purposes, essentially over: Big Little Lies and Game of Thrones.

As for Big Little Lies, the exec brushed off reports as “misinformation” and multiple questions about the director drama as “business as usual” in TV production — reminding the TCA attendees that directors' cuts almost never make it to air. More interestingly, he seemed blasé about the prospect of a third season from the Reese Witherspoon-Nicole Kidman vehicle.

“Having approached a possible season two skeptically, we realized there was a story to tell,” said Bloys. “To me, on the face of it, there’s no obvious place to go. That said, this group, if they all came to me with the greatest take, I would certainly be open to it.”

The only subject the reporters hammered harder than Big Little Lies was Game of Thrones. Bloys was nothing but enthusiastic about the series — despite reminders of the criticism for the final episodes many fans and critics deemed rushed — pointing to its massive Emmy haul.

“There are very few downsides in having a hugely popular show,” he said. “One, when you try to end it, is that people have opinions on how it should wrap up.”

Bloys' update on the proposed prequel spinoff was more or less obligatory, only confirming that filming had completed in Belfast and the pilot was still being edited.