Like many other observers in the TV industry, HBO’s chief executive officer Richard Plepler is perplexed by Netflix’s decision not to disclose the ratings for its original series, like the Emmy-nominated “House of Cards.”
“It's curious. I don't know what more to make of it," he said Thursday at the Television Critics Association, during a session where he and programming president Michael Lombardo addressed a wide range of questions from reporters.
Though Plepler pointed out that HBO and other non-ad-supported outlets such as Showtime and Starz make their ratings public, he wasn’t there to pick a fight, concluding, “Quite frankly it’s not our business, and we leave it at that.”
Nor did Plepler feel threatened by Netflix’s impressive showing in last week’s Emmy nominations, where the streaming service received 14 nods to HBO's 108, saying, “We live very comfortably amidst competition.”
Not surprisingly, the recent death of James Gandolfini, whose performance as Tony Soprano helped cement HBO’s status as a home for high-quality television, was one of the first subjects to come up during the session.
In May, the network ordered seven episodes of “Criminal Justice,” a pilot in which he starred as a jailhouse attorney, but his death the following month has left the project in limbo.
“Jim’s passing took the wind out of our sails at HBO. It’s taken some time to be able to have that conversation,” Lombardo said, explaining that while the network is mulling how to proceed, it would not broadcast the pilot starring Gandolfini.
Responding to a query about the network’s lack of female-centric dramas, Lombardo acknowledged the deficit but suggested part of the problem was that HBO is “a reactive network.” “We don't pitch shows to writers, we wait for writers to pitch shows to us,” he said, adding that he had reached out to agents in search of female-driven dramas.
The gender disparity has grown more acute after the cancellation of the critically beloved but low-rated “Enlightenment,” which straddled the line between comedy and drama. Lombardo suggested the decision was a creative rather than financial one — odd, perhaps, given how the show’s second season was widely viewed as an improvement on the first.
“We felt creatively that the story of Amy Jellicoe had come to a natural resting place and thought it was best to end it where we did,” he said.
Speaking of beloved shows reaching their conclusion, fans of “Eastbound & Down,” whose fourth and final season debuts in September, will be happy to learn that creators Danny McBride and Jody Hill are developing a project with HBO.
“They’re going to take a look at high school life. That’s all I can say. It’s a really great, funny, quintessentially Danny-Jody idea,” Lombardo said.
The executives also addressed several other veteran series, saying they had no plans to wind down “True Blood” or “Boardwalk Empire” and confirming the return of “Treme” on Dec. 1. The odds for a renewal of “The Newsroom,” now in its second season, also appeared “excellent,” Lombardo said.
“We’re very happy with the show.”