During the Warner Bros. Discovery Q2 earnings call, company leaders displayed a slide that struck many observers as incorrect. It made the claim that HBO Max has a “male skew.” Is that true?
Less than five months ago, the then-CEO of HBO tweeted about the progress the platform was making with female audiences.
Broadening the storytelling tent and inviting a lot more folks into it has been a big part of the HBO Max strategy from the start. Happy to see HBO Max attracting a 49% female audience these days, up from 42% when HBO Max launched ~2 yrs ago. Very proud of the team + thankful. pic.twitter.com/UQbCjr6edv— Jason Kilar (@jasonkilar) March 22, 2022
Although Kilar’s numbers from March did indicate a “male skew” (by a whopping 2%), yesterday’s presentation slide seems to push an oddly reductive take: men watch HBO Max, women watch discovery+. That’s not true at all. We don’t have numbers on the gender divide of Discovery programming, so we can only guess at how many men watch “90 Day Fiancé” or “Kendra Sells Hollywood.”
One month after Kilar’s tweet about the increasing female audience, he tweeted an image with the caption, “A secret to the above success = making WarnerMedia more diverse, more inclusive in our team + stories. 47% of our global team are females (wasn’t always that way). In the US, 41% are people of color (more work to do, but vital progress).”
Contrast those results to the moves new CEO David Zaslav has made since dismissing Kilar. Bloomberg reports that much of the company leadership is now less diverse. “Given six seats on the new company’s board, Zaslav and Discovery appointed a roster of all white male directors,” according to Bloomberg. “People of color accounted for just 30% of Discovery’s workforce going into the merger, according to its public filings—the lowest share of any major media company.”
Indeed, much of the explosive growth of HBO Max to date has come from female-powered stories like “Mare of Easttown,” “Euphoria,” “And Just Like That,” “Insecure,” “I May Destroy You,” “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” and “Station Eleven.”
While Warner Bros. Discovery leaders would like investors to believe HBO Max and discovery+ are merely two perfectly interlocking puzzle pieces, it’s a hard sell. One service features carefully crafted stories, the other offers shows like “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” with more than 400 episodes of a man who points at food. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s wild to say these are somehow equivalent. Filet mignon and Fruit Roll-Ups are not meals of equal value.
When questioned about the potential threat to the HBO legacy when the services merge, President & CEO of Discovery International JB Perrette said, “The HBO brand, no matter what, being a crown jewel will live on. There’s a difference between what the service may eventually be called or not versus what HBO is. HBO will always be the beacon and the ultimate brand that stands for the best of television quality. So that remains unchanged in any scenario in our mind.”
While Perrette may always think of HBO as the gold standard of TV, audiences may beg to differ if the quality or volume of content slips. Subscribers who enjoy prestige TV may also balk at having to pay a higher price for the library of unscripted programming that’s coming their way next summer, whether they want it or not. The HBO name can wither and die if not managed properly. Time will tell whether Zaslav knows his audience as well as he thinks he does.
Female Protagonists on HBO Max
2021 M04 18
A detective in a small Pennsylvania town (Kate Winslet) investigates a local murder while trying to keep her life from falling apart. The stellar cast features Jean Smart, David Denman, and Guy Pearce.
2021 M12 16
A post apocalyptic saga spanning multiple timelines telling the stories of survivors of a devastating flu as they attempt to rebuild and reimagine the world anew while holding on to the best of what’s been lost.
2020 M06 7
Set in London, where gratification is only an app away, the story centers on Arabella, a carefree, self-assured Londoner with a group of great friends, a boyfriend in Italy, and a burgeoning writing career. But when her drink is spiked, she must question and rebuild every element of her life.
2021 M11 18
Follow four college roommates as they arrive at New England’s prestigious Essex College. A bundle of contradictions and hormones, these girls are equal parts lovable and infuriating as they live out their new, free lives on campus.