“I want more hours of engagement.” Those were the marching orders that John Stankey, CEO of HBO’s new parent AT&T, gave in recent days to the broadcaster famous for taking a curated approach to television. The remarks came during a town hall that generated a ton of media coverage — apparently, everyone assumed, this means HBO will now be forced to play a volume game which may or may not affect the quality of the content.
Oh no, media Twitter collectively groaned. There it all goes. The new corporate overlord will screw it all up. And yet…
Today’s Emmy nominations are exhibit A for why HBO’s new leadership promised that a lot will be changing at the network. Because for the first time in 17 years, Netflix ended HBO’s reign as the leading TV broadcaster as ranked by Emmy nominations.
To a certain extent, media coverage of Stankey’s remarks left a few misleading impressions. Take that line about wanting more hours of engagement during the day. Ben Thompson’s Stratechery blog pointed out that it was preceded by this sentence: “You’re a key part of that, but you’re not the only part of that.” So no, HBO is not necessarily going to be delivering hours of content a day.”
There’s also at least one case study to look at in figuring out why it’s so hard to beat Netflix at its own game, and why so few are brave enough to try. Even when you have more money than God. Amazon has several high-quality, well-made, well-written, all-around solid original series as part of its streaming platform. But even it’s come nowhere close to matching Netflix in terms of cultural cachet.
Quick, name a strong, broadly recognized Amazon series. Many of you will immediately bring up “Transparent.” Much of the media coverage certainly does. A show that debuted — four years ago.
By the numbers:
Netflix picked up 112 nominations today for the 70th annual Emmy Awards. That’s up from 91 last year.
Netflix scored 108 nominations, down from 111 in 2017. Also worth noting — this is the first time ever Netflix has led every network and streaming platform in nominations.
You can read our complete coverage of the nominations here.
Here’s the tldr — if HBO immediately straps in and decides to compete on the basis of amping its slate of shows way, way up, that’s a strategy that will probably end in tears. If, as seems more likely, the strategy is a bit more nuanced – HBO’s new parent gives it a much bigger budget. “Here. Take this and go do more of what you’re doing” — well, now that’s probably the makings of a competitive race.
And we’ll end things here with the old maxim you usually read in stories like this — that the end result of a tight match-up like this means consumers come out on top, because we have more great TV to watch. It’s an old line, but especially in this case truer now than ever.