HBO and HBO Max Chief Details 'Game of Thrones' Expansion Plans

Casey Bloys
Courtesy of HBO

Casey Bloys also talks with The Hollywood Reporter about marketing 'The Nevers' without Joss Whedon and efforts to connect all of WarnerMedia's various DC properties.

Casey Bloys has been with HBO since 2004 and knows what an "HBO show" is.

As content chief for both the premium cabler and HBO Max, he's now tasked with broadening out the recently launched streamer with programming that can't already be found with HBO while also evolving his linear network for a new generation. Oh, and harness the power of parent company WarnerMedia's top franchises including DC Comics, Game of Thrones and, yes, Harry Potter.

Following a morning of Zoom presentations promoting originals like HBO/Max's upcoming fare including Kate Winslet vehicle Mare of Easttown and YA entry Generation, Bloys talks with The Hollywood Reporter about his vision for expanding Game of Thrones, untangling the multiplatform worlds of DC originals and how young adult programming is a key genre for linear and streaming.

A number of Buffy alums have come forward with their own experiences with Joss Whedon with claims that support Ray Fisher. How have the allegations around him and the showrunner change changed your marketing campaign for The Nevers? His name wasn't on the teaser trailer at all, which couldn't have been your original plan.

When I read Charisma Carpenter's accounts, it was distressing. On The Nevers, he's left the show. You've seen his statement. We were already planning, as you saw, to not say "From Joss Whedon" or "the director of [Avengers]." It hasn't really affected the campaign. Yes, you would expect to have that name [in marketing materials] but the show and the creative is going to speak for itself. A marketing campaign can only do so much; the show and the creative have to stand on its own.  

How do your expansion plans for Game of Thrones compare with Disney+? Will the expansion be as aggressive as something like Disney+'s 10-show Star Wars slate?

The way we try to approach it is not by [saying], "We need five shows within three years," but "What are the stories worth telling?" We've been developing multiple takes on different worlds. The one I want to do is the one that I think is best creatively. I prefer to make it about the stories and the showrunners and their vision as opposed to hitting some arbitrary target for the right number of shows.

Is there a wrong number?

Zero?! (Laughing.)

Ha! But is Game of Thrones a franchise you plan on saturating the way Disney is doing with Marvel and Star Wars TV shows?

No. I look at for HBO Max and WarnerMedia looks at it overall, that we have these great brands: HBO, DC, whatever we're going to do with Game of Thrones. I don't think as a company you necessarily want to think about it terms of just what's on HBO Max or just what's in theaters. It's overall, what do we have? In terms of over-saturation to me and HBO Max, for any slate, whether it's at HBO or HBO Max, you try to have some diversity and variance in the slate so it's not all DC, so it's not all adult animation, it's not all acquired programming. You find the right level for subscribers that they really respond to and are always finding something new and different to watch. On HBO Max, I don't want to do all DC shows; I don't want to do all Game of Thrones spinoffs. But a good mix of those. They're great properties to have within the mix.

There's no deal — yet! — for a Harry Potter TV series. There's no deal in place but meetings have been under way with writers for ideas. NBCU controls the streaming rights until April 2025. How much is that complicating your approach to bringing Harry Potter to TV? 

I won't add anything to what you've already put out there. You are correct in that there are no deals in place. I'd would go back to a more global statement on franchises: I think DC, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter — Warner Bros. has decades of important IP, Harry Potter being one of those. It's a great advantage for WarnerMedia and of course we want to use them in a way that makes either viewers, subscribers, fans happy.

We know, per sources, execs there have been meeting with writers and hearing ideas for a potential Harry Potter series. How would you describe the process and the pitches you've heard so far?

I have nothing to add beyond your diligent reporting.

You're making a big push for content that's appealing to younger viewers, not just on Max — with shows like Generation — but also HBO proper with things like We Are Who We Are and Euphoria. How much of that is a strategy to court and train a younger generation to make HBO — and HBO Max — a must-have subscription?

Yes! Part of Euphoria and We Are Who We Are was being aware — even before HBO Max — that any brand has to continually redefine what it is and ask who it's appealing to. We were doing that at HBO. And at Max, it's a big part of what we're trying to do. Regardless of where the show comes from, as we build a young adult brand, I'm thrilled that we'll have Euphoria, We Are Who We Are, Generation, Gossip Girl, The Sex Lives of College Girls as well as the Warner Bros. library content so that taken together, that's a really attractive offering to a young adult segment that historically had not been served on a long-term basis by HBO. Having that young adult content is one of the ways to make the offering for HBO Max in general feel much broader than HBO on its own.

There's a lot of brand confusion in the DC world, you've got movies, the TV-related spinoffs, then stuff from DC Universe, The CW content and then Max originals like Green Lantern from Greg Berlanti and Justice League Dark from J.J. Abrams. Is there an objective here?   

I just started to get involved with the DC content in August. Peacemaker is one of the first shows I greenlit and one of the first shows coming out, in January 2022. It's a great example of what HBO Max can do with DC content in that we're producing at al level we haven't seen DC content on TV do thus far. It's been one of [WarnerMedia CEO] Ann Sarnoff's priorities to organize the DC world for exactly what you're talking about — to make sure that the universe is logical and makes sense. She talks about the flywheel: that the movies speak to the TV shows that speak to the movies — that it's all connected. There's a lot of work going on in that at DC and Warner Bros. That is very much something that Ann has made a priority and the company is doing. It's one of the things in terms of WarnerMedia today vs. Time Warner five years ago, I have regular conversations now with [Warner Bros. film chief] Toby Emmerich and [DC content chief] Jim Lee and we talk about all things in way that never would have been discussed before. That's probably how you got a little DC over here, a little of DC over there, etc. The idea going forward is that we're talking with one voice about the DC universe. It's a really valuable world to have and we want to make sure we're using it correctly.

Right, and now even The CW is seemingly building out a secondary DC world outside of Greg Berlanti's multiple-show world with Naomi from Ava DuVernay…

You see confusion, I see lots of opportunity for DC fans! (Laughing.)  

Wrapping up, what's the status of We Are Who We Are, Watchmen and I May Destroy You? Will any return?

[We Are Who We Are creator] Luca Guadagnino is off doing other projects, so I don't know. There are no plans at the moment for season two. There's no update on Watchmen. And on I May Destroy You, Michaela Coel is thinking about what she wants to do next. I don't think there's going to be another I May Destroy You, there's no season two coming. But she's thinking about what she wants to do next and hopefully we'll be lucky enough to be partner with her again.  This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.