HBO’s new parent company to pump more money into its original content budget

Last week, telecom giant AT&T bought media giant Time Warner in a hotly contested, $85 billion deal. Time Warner manages several prominent companies, including Turner Broadcasting (which owns CNN, TBS and TNT), Warner Bros. and HBO. Welcome to the future.

When one company buys another, they usually want to make changes. Speaking to Bloomberg, incoming AT&T entertainment division head John Stankey said he’s interested in giving the network behind Game of Thrones more money. “I fully expect we’re going to be investing heavier in content development at HBO.”

That could be good for HBO, since it’s currently grappling with how to follow up the tremendously expensive Thrones, which wraps up next year. HBO has already ordered a pilot for a Game of Thrones prequel series about the Age of Heroes; that show sounds like it will have a sprawl similar to its predecessor, and there are several other ideas still in development. It’s not a bad time for an injection of corporate money.

To hear Bloomberg tell it, the influx of cash is so HBO can better compete with companies like Netflix, which is poised to spend around $8 billion on programming (original and otherwise) this year. In contrast, HBO spent around $2.5 billion in 2017.

Honestly, I expected that gap to be wider — Netflix seems to have a new show coming out every other week. There’s also Amazon to think about, which is throwing its hat into the premium TV ring with a lavishly expensive series set in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

There are also personnel changes to consider. For example, Richard Plepler has been the CEO of HBO since 2013, for the bulk of Game of Thrones’ lifespan. Will he be on his way out?

It’ll be interesting to see how HBO competes going forward, and how Stankey will handle himself as the new guy in charge. For the moment, he’s preparing by adding in drama shows to his TV rotation, including HBO’s Westworld. “I’m kind of hooked on it now.”

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