How HBO and Netflix have evolved away from each other in the past decade

A decade in the past, then-Netflix chief content material officer — and now co-CEO — Ted Sarandos instructed GQ, “‘The objective is to turn into HBO sooner than HBO can turn into us.”

However, to cite HBO’s “The Wire,” “The factor in regards to the previous days: they the previous days.”

At this time, the obvious objective for each corporations is to keep away from changing into each other.

The previous two weeks have crystalized the media giants’ diverging priorities. Dad or mum firm Warner Bros. Discovery determined to take away HBO from the title of its flagship Max streaming service to guard the HBO model from changing into … Netflix. Somewhat than threat diluting HBO’s status model with oodles of actuality TV programming from Discovery+, Warner executives need HBO to remain pristine.

“HBO is HBO. It wants to remain that manner,” Warner Bros. Discovery head of streaming JB Perrette stated at an April 12 occasion unveiling the brand new Max model. “We is not going to push it to the breaking level by forcing it to tackle the complete breadth of this new content material proposition had we stored the title within the service model.”

In a not-so-subtle shot at Netflix, HBO CEO Casey Bloys touted Max by highlighting its model energy.

“We’re not an enormous undifferentiated blob of programming,” he stated on the occasion.

Defending HBO, relatively than increasing it, hasn’t at all times been the precedence. Below the possession of AT&T, then-WarnerMedia CEO (and now AT&T CEO) John Stankey appeared comfy leaning on the HBO model to problem Netflix. This was the driving drive behind making HBO Max — combining HBO’s programming with different authentic content material and library programming from the WarnerMedia catalog. Stankey believed HBO could not compete towards Netflix by itself as a result of it was too restricted in scope.

John Stankey, AT&T CEO speaks on the Boston Faculty Chief Executives Membership luncheon in Boston, Massachusetts, March 24, 2023.

Brian Snyder | Reuters

“We’d like hours a day,” Stankey stated at an inner city corridor in 2018 after AT&T closed its acquisition of Time Warner, HBO’s dad or mum firm. “It isn’t hours every week, and it isn’t hours a month. We’d like hours a day. You might be competing with units that sit in folks’s palms that seize their consideration each quarter-hour.”

That sentiment did not sit effectively with HBO chief Richard Plepler, who would depart the corporate simply months after the city corridor. Plepler’s mantra, which he usually repeated, was: “Extra is not higher. Solely higher is healthier.” 

AT&T would merge WarnerMedia with Discovery in a transaction that closed final 12 months. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav will nonetheless chase Netflix, however he will not be doing it by increasing HBO or its model.

Netflix’s shift from HBO

In the meantime, Netflix appears distinctly targeted on delivering content material that has as vast of an viewers as attainable. That is removed from changing into HBO, which was Netflix’s objective in and round 2013. On the time, Netflix was simply starting to dabble in authentic content material, bidding towards HBO for reveals such because the Kevin Spacey-led drama “Home of Playing cards.” When Netflix hit once more with the drama “Orange Is the New Black,” Sarandos appeared on his method to making Netflix the brand new HBO.

However because the years glided by, Netflix’s ambitions grew. Buyers cheered on extra spending. Merely shopping for status reveals appeared like small potatoes. HBO’s U.S. viewers was usually about 35 million subscribers, and Netflix shortly blew previous that mark because it constructed a worldwide streaming service whose goal turned the whole conventional pay-TV ecosystem relatively than merely HBO.

Netflix stated this week it ended the primary quarter with greater than 232 million international subscribers.

However the significance of constructing status reveals to compete with HBO seems to be much less and fewer important to Netflix with yearly. It is also truthful to argue Netflix hasn’t had the identical hit fee as HBO in relation to making status TV reveals. From 2013 on, HBO has gained dozens extra main Emmys than Netflix.

Ted Sarandos attends the 94th Oscars on the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on March 27, 2022.

Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Pictures

“Once we speak about our content material, it generally feels like a laundry checklist,” Sarandos stated this week throughout Netflix’s earnings convention name. “Everybody has remarkably various style that you need to have very various things for various followers, and that is what we’re good at doing at scale.”

Netflix has determined its aggressive benefit is its breadth of programming. Sarandos instructed The New Yorker earlier this 12 months that Netflix’s new technique is to perform as “equal elements HBO and FX and AMC and Lifetime and Bravo and E! and Comedy Central.”

Ten years after Sarandos’ quote to GQ, it is clear HBO will not turn into Netflix, and Netflix will not turn into HBO. And that is superb with each of them.

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