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WarnerMedia Entertainment Chairman Says HBO and HBO Max to Become a ‘Unified Experience’

Fern Siegel

Robert Greenblatt has vision. As an NBCU exec, he wanted an OTT streaming service at the network. The company rejected the idea, already having a stake in Hulu. Fast-forward four years.

Now chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment, Greenblatt oversees HBO, TBS, TNT and the upcoming streaming HBO Max, which debuts in May. One of its rivals will be NBCU’s Peacock.

The TV vet, always in search of the next media challenge, shared with The Hollywood Reporter his position on the upcoming streamer.

How will HBO and HBO Max differentiate? “They’re separate, but that’s the old way of thinking about it. They’re ultimately going to live together, bundled next to each another in the same app. So, yes, they’re separate departments, but they’ll coalesce into one unified experience,” Greenblatt says.

“In five or 10 years, do we do more consolidation? I’m not sure. At the moment, HBO is the signature of the platform, and nothing is more important than keeping it intact. It has a slightly older, 40-plus audience, and we know what kinds of programming they do. But there’s a lot they don’t do,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.

That’s where HBO Max comes in.

Greenblatt says the streamer is “the rest of it. Kids all the way up to young adults. And different genres, like YA or unscripted, which HBO largely doesn’t do. It’ll never be 50,000 hours of programming. We’re starting with 10,000.”

HBO Max is also strategizing its approach to film acquisition. “We have Warner Bros. and New Line, and they want to make middle-range movies that don’t work at the box office anymore. We’re just figuring out how many we need, should we consider a theatrical release, how do we window. We’ve bought five or six so far for this first year.”

The other big issue for HBO Max is distribution: dropping episodes weekly or all at once. “We mirror exactly what’s on HBO, and we didn’t want to suddenly remake HBO linear and say we’re going to drop a whole series on day one,” he says.

“But we’re probably going to play around a bit, here and there. We may drop all episodes of a reality show, if there are six or eight, at once. But by and large, it’ll be episodic, probably with a two- or three-episode dump at the beginning.”

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