HBO may be a somewhat smaller star in the constellation of the recently approved AT&T-Time Warner merger, but the cable giant made it clear that it’s no less bright at a Tuesday town hall meeting with its new boss.
At the New York event hosted by HBO CEO Richard Plepler, where new WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey took the stage to talk about the new parent company, a who’s who of HBO talent graced a humorous opening video. Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David, Barry star Bill Hader, Bill Maher, Tony Hale, Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke, and Danny McBride all posed joke questions to Stankey while the familiar Curb theme music played in the background.
Sources say Stankey, once onstage, emphasized subscriber growth during the hourlong event and echoed much of what he’s said in the days after the U.S. Justice Department’s decision to approve the merger and the formation of the massive media conglomerate. There was a sense of relief, per two in attendance, that he said “all the right things” in regards to HBO.
Stankey spoke with The Hollywood Reporter on Monday, noting that the premium cable network and its thriving streaming alternative are clearly in competition with Netflix.
“The folks at HBO have a strong funnel and they have good product and the opportunity to move into development with very short notice,” he said. “We are very interested in continuing to accelerate investment in that IP that we can ultimately control and own. And I don’t believe our strategy should be characterized as a “me too” on Netflix.”
HBO has been one of the biggest players in original programming for two decades, but the merger comes at a time of significant changes in its roster. 2019 marks the end of Game of Thrones, its flagship property and one of the most popular shows in the world.
It remains unclear how much of a hand WarnerMedia will have in HBO’s operation moving forward. The network spent its entire run under Time Warner with a great deal of autonomy.