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Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
The countdown to HBO Max
ALSO: RIP The Purge and Treadstone
The TV series spin-off of the movie franchise The Purge has been cancelled after two seasons. Joining it in the TV afterlife is Treadstone, a series spun-off from the Bourne Identity films. Both shows aired on USA Network and I think it is fair to suggest that neither show really generated much attention despite being connected to such well-known movie franchises.
It’s kind-of surprising this hasn’t happened already. Anne Rice’s books are being adapted for television. AMC has bought the rights to Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles series and The Lives Of The Mayfair Witches.
There’s a lot of material to mine through both series. The Vampire Chronicles encompasses 18 titles, including Interview With The Vampire, The Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned, and The Tale of the Body Thief. There are also books featuring a crossover between both series.
A four-part doco about Jeffrey Epstein debuts on Netflix on May 27.
I was really quite taken with this video posted to Twitter yesterday by former Pointless host and general burger enthusiast Mark Humphries.
First of all, the video is super funny.
Secondly, I don’t understand how broadcaster Channel 10 weren’t highlighting clips like this as part of the promotional strategy around the show. If you hire a comedian as your host, surely it’s to your benefit as a network to bring attention to the laugh out loud moments your host is generating.
HBO Max - 2 weeks until launch
Telco AT&T paid $85 billion to buy TimeWarner. The company wanted to use TimeWarner content to drive and retain customers to their mobile and broadband business. The company needed to future-proof itself against changes to the market that will be brought about by the introduction in 5G and Elon Musk’s global Internet service Starlink. With limited time between the acquisition and the roll-out of those services, AT&T had to move quickly to reshape what has become branded as WarnerMedia.
There’s a good feature story on Variety today taking a deep dive into the launch of HBO Max. The key takeaways…
It’s a huge bet for AT&T. And it starts with a $4 billion investment:
AT&T has pledged to invest $4 billion in HBO Max over the next three years. That includes the cost of programming for the service as well as lost WarnerMedia earnings from steering movies and TV shows to HBO Max that otherwise would have been licensed to outside buyers.
COVID-19 completely disrupted marketing plans surrounding the launch:
“All of a sudden all of our marketing organized around sporting events, Comic-Con — now all these events were not happening,” says Andy Forssell, a Hulu and Otter Media veteran who is executive VP and general manager of HBO Max. “Those plans were redone from the bottom up at the last minute.” WarnerMedia chief marketing officer Chris Spadaccini led the charge.
The content probably won’t feature many of the obscure deep dives I would love to see on the streamer:
Although WarnerMedia has some 45,000 hours of programming available in its own vault, the focus is on serving up the cream of the crop. HBO Max will launch with roughly 10,000 hours of library content. There will be films from Warner Bros., Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection; Warner Bros. Television sitcoms; grown-up animation from Adult Swim; and, of course, the entirety of HBO.
“We didn’t want to just throw thousands of hours at the wall and hope we hit everybody,” Greenblatt says. “We spent a lot of time looking at and curating all of these different libraries.”
It really seems like the executives don’t understand the power and brand resonance of the Warner Bros brand:
The decision to organize the offering around the HBO brand did not come immediately. Thought was given at the outset to creating a Warner Bros.-branded service.
“We knew that Warner Bros. had a very high recognition in terms of the shield itself; people understand that it means quality,” Reilly says. “But Warner Bros., unlike, say, Disney, has never been a consumer-facing brand. You know, you don’t go to ‘Warners Land’ for vacation.”
The service will launch with a HUGE back catalog of titles (it’s expected to have 10,000+ titles at launch). But it will also launch with new shows. We already know about:
Love Life: A romantic comedy series starring Anna Kendrick and Scoot McNairy
Legendary: A reality competition series showcasing the underground ballroom community (expect plenty of vogue-ing) with a judging panel that includes Megan Thee Stallion
On The Record: The documentary film that explores allegations of sexual abuse and harassment made against hip hop mogul Russell Simmons
Craftopia, a youth-friendly crafting competition show that takes things to extremes
Kid-geared programs including fresh New Looney Tunes offerings and The Not Too Late Show with Elmo
But today HBO Max has announced the second month of originals:
Search Party, Season 3: In the third season of this former TBS comedy thriller about self-absorbed twenty-somethings searching for a missing friend, the gang is swept up in a trial after Dory (Alia Shawkat) and Drew (John Reynolds) are charged for the semi-accidental murder of a private eye, and Elliott (John Early) and Portia (Meredith Hagner) have to decide whether or not to testify as witnesses. Seasons 1 and 2 are available at launch.
Doom Patrol, Season 2: The second season of the DC Universe series picks up after the defeat of Mr. Nobody and finds everyone miniaturized and stranded on Cliff's toy race car track where they have to process the betrayal of Niles Caulder, aka The Chief (Timothy Dalton) while also confronting their own personal baggage. And they have to do all of this while also protecting the newest member of the family, Dorothy Spinner (Abigail Shapiro), Niles' daughter, whose mysterious powers pose a real threat.
Adventure Time: Distant Lands - BMO: The first of four Adventure Time specials follows the lovable robot BMO during a deadly space emergency in the farthest reaches of the galaxy.
Esme & Roy: An animated series from the makers of Sesame Street that brings young viewers into the colorful world of Esme and Roy, two best friends and monstersitters in Monsterdale, where even the littlest monsters can overcome big challenges together.
Expecting Amy: A three-part documentary from Amy Schumer that takes viewers behind-the-scenes and reveals the challenges of pregnancy, marriage and the execution of creating a stand-up special. Beginning the day Schumer found out she was pregnant and going through the birth of her child with husband, Chris Fischer, the doc gives fans an inside look at the comedian's incredible journey.
Close Enough: A surreal animated comedy about a married couple in their 30s, their 5-year-old daughter, and their two divorced best friends/roommates who all live together on the east side of Los Angeles. As they juggle work, kids, and attempt to reach their dreams, they must also avoid time-traveling snails, stripper clowns, and murderous mannequins.
The House of Ho: A reality series that follows the family of Binh Ho and his wife, Hue Ho, who immigrated to the United States with little money but achieved the American dream. The series digs into the power couple behind a multi-million-dollar bank, a real estate development company, and a new generation, and reveals their lavish Houston lifestyle and tight family connections, all with a lot of multi-generational drama.
Tig n' Seek: A new animated series about an enthusiastic 8-year-old named Tiggy who works for the Department of Lost and Found, and his cat, Gweeseek, who appears to be a normal cat but is capable of inventing extraordinary gadgets.
Frayed: A new 1980s-set comedy from creator, writer and producer Sarah Kendall that follows the journey of Sammy Cooper, a wealthy London housewife who is forced to return to her hometown in Australia and revisit her past and the events that led her to flee as a teenager. This is the show that aired a few months back on the ABC in Australia.
The Dog House: A new reality series that will make your heart swell as it follows formerly unwanted pets at a rural British Dog Rescue Centre famous for its commitment to matching homeless dogs with new owners. The series tell poignant stories of the men and women, all carrying their own baggage, who hope their lives might be transformed by the introduction of a new four-legged friend.
An American Pickle: Based on Simon Rich's 2013 novella about Herschel Greenbaum (Seth Rogen), a struggling laborer who immigrates to America in 1920 and falls into a vat of pickles and is brined for 100 years. Because the brine preserves him, he emerges in present day Brooklyn having not aged a day. When he attempts to find his family, he learns his only surviving relative is his great-grandson Ben Greenbaum (also Rogen), a mild-mannered computer coder whom Herschel can't even begin to understand.
At first sniff, that doesn’t sound like a hugely impressive lineup for such a huge streaming launch, but keep in mind that these are just the HBO Max originals - on top of that there’s also proper HBO shows (including Perry Mason) and other series coming from Warner-owned channels.