HBO execs have “secret army” of fake accounts to attack critics online

DANA POINT, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 27: Casey Bloys, Chairman & CEO, HBO and HBO Max Content speaks onstage during Vox Media's 2023 Code Conference at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel on September 27, 2023 in Dana Point, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Vox Media)
DANA POINT, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 27: Casey Bloys, Chairman & CEO, HBO and HBO Max Content speaks onstage during Vox Media's 2023 Code Conference at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel on September 27, 2023 in Dana Point, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Vox Media) /

Okay, strap in for this one: Rolling Stone just published an article about Casey Bloys, the CEO and chairman of HBO. Given the prominence of the position, not to mention the high levels of compensation these sorts of jobs tend to involve, you’d figure Bloys would spend most of his time attending to important issues, guiding the progress of the network’s biggest shows, developing exciting new series and making sure HBO retains its reputation as the most trusted brand in TV.

And maybe he does those things. But according to a variety of communications prepared as part of a wrongful termination lawsuit against HBO brought by former employee Sully Temori, Bloys also spends a lot of time obsessing over errant comments on social media — comments critical of HBO shows — and then strategizing ways to make whoever wrote them “feel bad.”

This article paints a very damning portrait of HBO in general and of Bloys and some of the people he works with in particular. Let’s get into some examples.

HBO CEO Casey Bloys spends time figuring out how to make critics “feel bad”

According to his lawsuit, Temori was tasked by HBO executive Kathleen McCaffrey — who answers to Bloys — with creating sock puppet accounts and responding to TV critics on Twitter (or sometimes to random commenters on the internet), who said things critical of HBO. Some examples:

  • Casey Bloys was mad at Rolling Stone critic Alan Sepinwall for giving the HBO show The Nevers a 2.5 star review. “Casey is looking for a tweeter… he’s mad at Alan Sepinwall,” McCaffrey texted Temori. “Can our secret operative please tweet at Alan’s review: ‘Alan is always predictably safe and scared in his opinions.’ And then we have to delete this chain right? Omg I just got scared lol.”  That day, a newly created Twitter account under the name Kelly Shepherd replied to Sepinwall’s tweet about his review, writing, “alan is always predictably safe and scared in his opinions.”
  • When New York Times’ critic James Poniewozik tweeted that The Nevers “feels like watching a show that someone has mysteriously deleted 25% of the scenes from,” Bloys was ticked. “Maybe our friend needs to say what a shock it is that two middle aged white men [he and [Times’ TV critic Mike] Hale] are shitting on a show about women,” Bloys wrote McCaffrey. McCaffrey responded: “I fucking hate these people, yes.” Lo and behold, the Kelly Shepherd account tweeted: ““How shocking that two middle aged white men (you & Hale) are shitting on a show about women…….”
  • Bloys also didn’t like Alan Sepinwall’s three-star review of Mare of Easttown. “His highness needs another one,” McCaffrey wrote to Temori. “We need our friend to call out Alan for Mare.” Bloys allegedly wanted Kelly Shephed to post, “Alan missed on Succession and totally misses here because he is busy virtue signaling.” And that’s exactly what happened.
  • Bloys was also incensed by random comments on Deadline. Wrote one anonymous user about the cancellation of the show Run: “Wasn’t a good show and harshly unveils Bloys-era cynicism of HBO development. Try making a show that can actually inspire people–great TV doesn’t have to be ugly.” Later, Bloys texted McCaffrey: “How dare someone write that!! I want to say something along the lines of ‘lol ok they are just counting their Emmys’ or something like that!?” Later he had another suggestion: “Maybe we say we must have passed on their development and they are bitter?”
  • Days later, Bloys was angry about “mean comments” on Deadline regarding the announcement of the new comedy series Somebody Somewhere. Quoth Bloys: “Can our friend post, ‘Someone actually says we went downhill after [HBO’s former president of programming Michael] Lombardo left! Please have them post, ‘Hi David Levine! HBO seems just fine thanks!’”(David Levine was a former HBO exec.) Hours later, Bloys’ wording was posted verbatim in the comment section of the article.
  • Other anonymous comments also popped up on Deadline. “[Former HBO CEO Richard] Plepler was 2000’s, the future is Bloys,” one user wrote. “Remember how we just got Westworld, Leftovers, Watchmen, Succession, Euphoria, etc. HBO has been, and will always be fire,” wrote another.

Sometimes Bloys would plan a response but wouldn’t follow all the way through. For instance, he got angry with Vulture critic Kathryn VanArendonk, who tweeted some criticism of the (gone too soon) HBO show Perry Mason: “Dear prestige TV,” she wrote, “Please find some way to communicate male trauma besides showing me a flashback to the hero’s memories of trench warfare.”

Obviously, Bloys couldn’t take this small amount of snark lying down. “Maybe a Twitter user should tweet that that’s a pretty blithe response to what soldiers legitimately go through on [the] battlefield,” he texted McCaffrey. “Do you have a secret handle? Couldn’t we say especially given that it’s D-Day to dismiss a soldier’s experience like that seems pretty disrespectful… this must be answered!”

Bloys and McCaffrey didn’t end up responding to this one, but Bloys certainly sounded heated. “Who can go on a mission,” he said, saying that they needed to find a “mole” at “arms length” from the HBO executive team. “We just need a random to make the point and make her feel bad.”

HBO CEO had “secret army” of sock puppet accounts to attack critics online

The Kelly Shepherd account is still up as of this writing, by the way. According to Rolling Stone, Bloys and McCaffrey discussed this “secret army” of fake accounts they’d made just to fire back at people who said things they didn’t like online. When McCaffrey approached Temori about it, she said that Bloys was “obsessed with Twitter” and “always wants to pick a fight on Twitter,” and yeah, that’s certainly what it looks like.

And that’s nuts. Think about what’s happening here. Casey Bloys, a top executive at one of the most powerful media brands in the world, someone who is undoubtedly raking in tons of money every years, spends a not-inconsiderable amount of time reading mean comments on Twitter and news article and then thinking of ways to hit back, even though those responses are unlikely to be seen by many people. It’s extraordinarily petty and seems like a huge waste of valuable time. “I’m surprised HBO would even bother with this,” Sepinwall comments. YEAH.

For HBO’s part, they said they would not “comment on select exchanges between programmers and errant tweets.” This whole story is crazy to me. Like, if you had a ton of money invested in Warner Bros. Discovery, would you be happy that one of the top executives was spending his time thinking up ways to make his critics “feel bad” online, rather than doing things that don’t involve being a petty doofus? I don’t know if this incident is something we’ll all forget in a week or if this will lead to Bloys losing his job. I can see it going either way.

Part of that may come down to how the lawsuit shakes out. It’s about more than just Bloys fixating on random comments. Temori alleges that he faced retaliation and discrimination over a mental health diagnosis, faced harassment with regards to his sexual orientation, and that HBO made him a script coordinator on The Idol specifically because that was a job they intended to eliminate, which they did. The lawsuit also names as defendants HBO’s head of drama Francesca Orsi, Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, and two producers for The Idol.

According to Temori’s attorney Michael Martinez, Bloys’ texts serve as an example of the “very petty” company culture at HBO. “First and foremost, I think [this lawsuit] is about HBO’s culture and how it fosters a dynamic of ongoing harassment and discrimination in the workplace. They joke about people outside of HBO, they joke about people within HBO… You suffer through some bullying until you can’t suffer anymore.”

Next. 5 most overpaid Hollywood CEOs. dark

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