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HBO Chief Gets Extension; What Does That Mean for Future of HBO Max?

Stephen Silver

It’s a time of great change for HBO and its streaming service HBO Max, with the Warner Bros. Discovery merger closing earlier this year to give the service its third different owner in the last six years.

WBD CEO David Zaslav, who came from the Discovery side of the merger, has ushered in many changes since the deal closed, including the cancellation of shows, the quick shuttering of the news streaming service CNN+, the the dropping of production of shows in Europe, and other cost-cutting measures.

But one major thing that won’t be changing under the new WBD is who is running the show at HBO. According to a report from Puck News, Zaslav has given a five-year contract extension to Casey Bloys, the head of HBO and HBO Max.

What does mean for the future of HBO and HBO Max? It’s an indication that for all of the changes going on throughout the company, WBD execs are happy with the direction that HBO has taken, and that we should expect its current course to continue more or less as is.

In other words, if some were worried that HBO’s longtime focus on quality shows was going to fall by the wayside under its new ownership, the executive’s new deal represents a vote of confidence in the status quo.

The news follows HBO and HBO Max's massive haul of Emmy nominations, which included 140 nodsfrom “Succession,” “Euphoria,” “The White Lotus,” “Barry,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Hacks,” and other acclaimed shows. HBO had the most nominations of any entity in the 2022 Emmy nominations, beating out Netflix’s 105.

The new contract also comes ahead of the scheduled debut of the “Game of Thrones” spinoff “House of the Dragon” in August. If the next few years feature an annual return of a Westeros-set show — and possibly more than one — then the HBO of the future will, in one key way, somewhat resemble the HBO of the past, despite the different ownership.

There had been worries that the quality associated with the HBO brand would become diluted once it was combined with non-HBO content in HBO Max — and in fact, past top HBO executive Richard Plepler had left the company in 2019 over similar concerns, during the AT&T ownership. But Bloys has succeeded in continuing to churn out quality shows and movies that both draw eyeballs and collect awards.

The next big test for HBO is that HBO Max and discovery+ are expected to combine first into a bundle, and then into a single service at some point in the “not-too-distant future.” Will the traditional quality of HBO be diluted when it’s sharing a streaming service with the unscripted, lifestyle content that currently populates Discovery’s streamer?

As of now, HBO Max is continuing to grow incredibly fast. The service had 76.8 million subscribers globally as of the end of the first quarter of this year, adding subscribers as Netflix lost them. While HBO’s long-term future under Warner Bros. Discovery remains somewhat uncertain, the short-term indications are that — in many of the ways that matter — HBO will remain the HBO that its admirers know.

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