HBO’s New Owner Wants the Premium Network to Become More Mainstream

HBO - Game of Thrones and Westworld

When AT&T bought Time Warner, they initially promised few changes to the popular HBO network, but all of that looks to be changing now as the company hopes to make the premium channel a more viable mainstream option. Last month, AT&T finally acquired Time Warner for a whopping $85.4 billion, following a long legal battle with the U.S. Department of Justice.

At the time of Time Warner's acquisition, the company promised to leave cable juggernaut HBO largely to its own devices. This is, after all, the home of the most pirated and leaked fantasy series of all time: Game of Thrones. Not to mention the fact that Game of Thrones and Westworld have consistently proven to be ratings juggernauts, with several of the networks other programs - series, miniseries, and movies - raking in all kinds of awards over the years. And while HBO has been given a lot of room to flourish, AT&T wants them to expand even more; it just might require them to change directions.

Related: HBO's Game of Thrones & Westworld Skipping SDCC 2018

Despite the ratings bonanza enjoyed by the previously mentioned series, AT&T insists HBO is simply not profitable enough, The New York Times reports. To fix this, the company plans to capture more of their viewers' attention - and for longer. Rather than having viewers tune in for one big Sunday night lineup, or binge-watching their favorite shows a week at a time, AT&T executive John Stankey insists daily binges are the key to the network's success. "You are competing with devices that sit in people’s hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes," he says. At this point, Stankey believes that HBO's current path and subscriber base isn't enough for the network to survive in the long-term.

Of course, there is a catch. Consumers will not simply be giving their time and attention to HBO, but their preferences. Stankey explains, "Why are more hours of engagement important? Because you get more data and information about a customer that then allows you to do things like monetize through alternate models of advertising as well as subscriptions, which I think is very important to play in tomorrow’s world." This indicates a move away from the premier channel system and a bigger focus on apps and subscriptions similar to the Netflix style of streaming. The emphasis on data is also a telling indicator of the company's plans to revamp the network to better fit into the mainstream viewer's preference, which could mean a huge difference in the sorts of content being offered by HBO.

The network is well-known for its risky, long-form, story-driven content. In its own attempt to become more mainstream, Netflix has begun a push for more romantic comedies, a genre that doesn't fully fit in with HBO's current line-up. Many streaming giants have seen a recent push for more horror-driven content, as well. With Amazon striking a deal with The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, and with Hulu and Blumhouse working to deliver long-form horror series, the streaming landscape is certainly starting to shift towards content for all viewers. While HBO's content is certainly gory and weird, it doesn't necessarily fit into the horror genre, either. With so many streaming services making a push for distinct genres, it's likely HBO will see more projects that fit into a specific mold such as these.

More: HBO Won't Be Free With AT&T's Unlimited Plan Any More

Source: New York Times

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