WarnerMedia chairman Bob Greenblatt has set out HBO Max’s global ambitions, calling for international acquisitions and co-productions for the forthcoming platform.
Speaking at MIPCOM’s ‘Personality of the Year’ keynote on Tuesday (15 October), Greenblatt said there is now “great international programming from around the world that, five or six years ago, would be unheard of”.
“In America, it was nothing but American shows. We exported our own shows to the rest of the world, we watched our own shows and it was a closed system. Now the world is completely global and we see all the great shows being made around the world and we are wide open for putting those kinds of shows on HBO Max as well. HBO has been flirting around it as well, with [shows such as] Our Boys from Israel.
“We are wide open to bringing some of those shows to HBO Max, either in their original languages or not. We’ve seen through Netflix and Amazon some extraordinary shows from Italy and Russia and we’d love to have some of those as well.”
Greenblatt also acknowledged that library content such as Friends and The Big Bang Theory – for which the business struck multimillion-dollar deals – is a “big part of building this kind of platform” and, in addition to acquisitions, WarnerMedia is keen to “mine the shows we have”, ultimately building out a “treasure trove” of great shows.
“There is an enormous amount of content covering every genre that we’re putting onto this new platform,” he said.
Highlighting that more news will drop at the end of October, Greenblatt promised a lot of new shows from “an array of really exciting people”, covering dramas, comedies and, interestingly, expanding to kids, young adult and Gen Z programming.
He name-checked Ridley Scott’s Raised By Wolves as well as Paul Feig and Anna Kendrick’s Love Life and a show with Kailey Cuoco and super-producer Greg Berlanti, in addition to The Fault In Our Stars actor Ansel Elgort’s first TV series, set in Japan.
Greenblatt also revealed that a Grease spin-off is coming to the platform.
Noting that the John Travolta and Olivia Newton John-starring musical “crosses all kinds of genres”, he described Rydell High as taking the Grease format and reinventing it as a weekly TV series that is “in the world of that show with some of the music and characters”. \
The spin-off will build out the world of the show and its musical style, he said, adding that the goal is to “build a High School Musical-kind of experience that will be a big, fun rock ‘n’ roll musical”.
Greenblatt added that while CNN content won’t sit on HBO Max, it will both acquire and commission programmes from prodco CNN Films. “We will be licensing that library content from CNN, and they will be making some new things for us,” said the exec, noting that HBO Max won’t tackle live programming in the near term.
He added that the studio has “exponentially” increased its pipeline of content in the face of “great shows coming out from around the world”.
“Finding the unique show no one else is doing is getting harder and harder. When you hit on something like Chernobyl, who would have thought a five-part docudrama about this nuclear accident would have caused the sensation that it did?
“But then you think about it, and there’s nothing else like it. It’s executed to the highest level and marketed beautifully and HBO did everything right, and lo and behold, 14m have watched Chernobyl, so no idea is off the table. It’s about the execution, how you market it, and the last thing you should do is something everyone else is doing.”
Elsewhere, Greenblatt threw cold water on any speculation around HBO losing its hallmark quality as it strives to pump out more volume.
“This year along has been an extraordinary year [for HBO], and there is no plan to do anything but to keep that intact, exactly what it is. The shows are made very carefully and there’s a certain number that is a comfortable amount of shows, and we are increasing it slightly but it’s not anything to be alarmed about. It’s still business as usual.”
The exec noted that the route to growing the brand has been to add additional programming that “will be alongside HBO but won’t be HBO”.
“We’re not taxing HBO to do anything more than what they do. They’re ramped up a little bit over the last time, but it’s not going to be that simple.”