HBO Must ‘Change Direction’ So It Can Get More of That Sweet, Sweet Viewer Engagement

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Photo: HBO

While viewers might associate HBO’s brand more with critical acclaim than sheer number of eyeballs on the screen, WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey kept it 100 percent with the 150 employees who attended a recent town-hall meeting to discuss the future of the network. As reported by the New York Times, Stankey make it clear that his goal for HBO is to get more viewers and to keep them longer, in order that the network can monetize more audience data and financially flourish. “It’s going to be a tough year,” Mr. Stankey warned. “It’s going to be a lot of work to alter and change direction a little bit.”

Following the finalization of AT&T’s deal to buy Time Warner in June, HBO is now part of the renamed WarnerMedia. According to the Times, Stankey was upfront about the need for HBO to make more shows with broad appeal, increase its audience, and up the hours everybody spends watching the network. The reason for the new strategy is simple: so much competition. “We need hours a day,” Stankey said of how often viewers should be watching HBO. “It’s not hours a week, and it’s not hours a month. We need hours a day. You are competing with devices that sit in people’s hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes.”

Facing a world flooded with television and film options, the WarnerMedia CEO was pragmatic about the benefits of more everything. “I want more hours of engagement. Why are more hours of engagement important?,” Stankey explained. “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.”

HBO CEO Richard Plepler, who was also in attendance, expressed a willingness to get onboard with the new game plan, while alluding to past hesitance. “I’ve said, ‘More is not better, only better is better,’ because that was the hand we had,” he allowed. “I’ve switched that, now that you’re here, to: ‘More isn’t better, only better is better — but we need a lot more to be even better.’” As Stankey told the audience at one point, “We’ve got to make money at the end of the day, right?,” to which Plepler replied, “We do that.” Said Stankey, “Yes, you do. Just not enough.”

HBO Must ‘Change Direction’ to Increase Viewer Engagement