HBO plans for originals push, unveils documentary slate

HBO will further increase its originals output over the next 12 months to around 160 hours, up from an average of just 100 over recent years, but content chief Casey Bloys has said quality will not be sacrificed.

Speaking at the summer TCA tour, Bloys said the premium US cablenet would have between 160 and 165 hours of originals in 2020, up from 150 this year and up from a 100-hour average in recent years.

The cabler has recently been airing coproductions such as Chernobyl (pictured), produced with Sky in the UK, and Gentleman Jack, produced with the BBC, on Monday evenings and Bloys (below) said it suggested the strategy to ramp up output was working.

He said his “big challenge” was to avoid “filling hours to fill hours” and said both Gentleman Jack and Chernobyl (below) would have been ordered regardless of the content push. “We have a lot more programming but there is not one show I would not have aired two years ago or five years ago,” he explained.

HBO has rejigged its senior management team over the past six months since being acquired by AT&T, with former CEO Richard Plepler among those stepping down. Since then, the cablenet’s parent WarnerMedia has revealed the senior team for its soon-to-launch SVOD service HBO Max, which unveiled its content plans at the start of the month.

However Bloys said that, despite the streamer’s name, the existing linear network would not change its programming strategy for the forthcoming OTT offering. Randall Stephenson, CEO at WarnerMedia parent AT&T, added that live sports and news would feature on the streamer, although likely not at launch.

HBO has also unveiled its documentary slate for the remainder of the year, with shows including Matthew O’Neill and Perri Peltz’s Alternate Endings: Six New Ways To Die In America. It explores changing attitudes to death and the way it is marked.

Also on the slate is Torn Apart: Separated At The Border, which highlights the stories of two mothers who fought their deportations from the US while their children were being held in custody thousands of miles away.

The doc, from Talos Films, also examines conditions in Central America that led these families to flee their home countries and seek safety in the US. It is being directed and produced by Ellen Goosenberg Kent, with Xochiti Dorsey producing and Luis Alvarez y Alvarez attached as editor. Executive producers for Talos are Elli Hakami and Julian P. Hobbs.

Other docs include Liberty: Mother of Exiles, which explores the history of the Statue of Liberty, and Very Ralph, about iconic designer Ralph Lauren and his impact on the world of fashion.

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