When “Euphoria” was renewed for Season 2 two weeks ago, HBO stressed the series’ success with younger viewers. The release stated the Zendaya-starring drama was “HBO’s youngest-skewing drama series on the network’s digital platforms,” including HBO Now, HBO Go, and VOD options. At that point, the premiere episode had attracted more than 5.5 million viewers and audience totals have increased every week on those same digital platforms.
This is definitely what HBO was hoping “Euphoria” would do, Casey Bloys, president of programming, confirmed with IndieWire during an interview Wednesday afternoon. “It’s performed how I would’ve hoped and expected a show with a younger cast would perform,” Bloys said. “Some of these things are intuitive. Some of the half-hours like ‘Silicon Valley’ and ‘Insecure’ tend to do better on platforms.”
To that end, Bloys pointed to a wide margin between the average age of HBO viewers on linear channels and digital platforms. “This is an overall number, not specific [to ‘Euphoria’], but [looking at] a show [distributed on] linear versus platform, I think there’s like a 15-year gap in the [average age] difference between it,” he said.
In linear ratings, “Euphoria” is in the middle of the pack for the network. Its Season 1 average is just over 550,000 viewers per episode, which puts it just below “Succession” and just above “The Deuce” in terms of average linear viewership. But it tops both shows in the 18-49 demographic and has seen a streaming surge to further boost its viability.
Still, Bloys was clear to set a dividing line between the younger demographic HBO wants and an audience that’s too young for “Euphoria’s” mature material.
“It’s not designed for teens,” Bloys said. “It’s no more for teens than ‘Sopranos’ would be for mobsters. It’s more about a world you may not know, or changes that are going on that you may not understand. So it’s more about a look at a world that’s happening to teenagers. That being said, I think that experience, that people who are closer to [the characters in age] may be more interested in it, and that’s why the target audience is really 18-34.”
That’s great news for a network in need of younger audiences who demand more and more content they enjoy. HBO is the hub of WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer streaming service, HBO Max, which is scheduled to debut in spring 2020. As audiences pivot from cable and satellite packages to streaming options, HBO needs to secure viewers who are more comfortable watching programs online.
Those viewers could help ease a difficult transition, as HBO moves forward without popular programming. During Bloys’ executive session earlier on Wednesday, it was pointed out that HBO would be without “Game of Thrones,” “Veep,” “Big Little Lies,” and “True Detective” in 2020. The increase in programming as well as the HBO Max rollout will have to make up for these high-profile gaps.
“I’ve been here 15 years. Disaster is always just around the corner,” he said to a loud laugh in the room. “But I think if we work with the people we believe in, promote the shows… we’ll be just fine. We just keep pushing forward.”
With the future in mind, Bloys confirmed a few release dates for upcoming series. “Lovecraft Country,” which has been in development since 2017, comes from coveted producers Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams. It’s based on the Matt Ruff’s novel of the same name, and Bloys said the series is on schedule to be released next year. “They’re shooting,” he said. “They started a couple of weeks ago. That will be sometime in 2020.”
Another highly expected program (at least for IndieWire readers) is “The New Pope,” Paolo Sorrentino’s follow-up to “The Young Pope.” The new limited series released its first image of Jude Law and John Malkovich in January 2019, and Bloys said it’s going to come out around that same time in early 2020.
During the executive session, Bloys said to expect a 10 percent increase in content next year to help meet the mandate for increased production from new parent company AT&T. These shows will help hit that mark, but Bloys said there are no plans to go back to the well and renew old shows — despite the success of “Deadwood” this year.
“‘Deadwood,’ obviously the TCA crowd had a soft spot for it, and I think everybody at HBO felt like it maybe ended prematurely,” he said to IndieWire. “It just felt right with David, with his health situation, it felt like the right thing for everybody. But that was more of that situation as opposed to a larger business question of what else could we revive.”
That applies to shows like “Enlightened,” which was canceled after two seasons but remains a cult favorite.
“I would put Laura Dern in anything,” Bloys said, adding they’re developing a few shows with the actress and producer. “[But] I generally think it’s best to try something new, and I feel like most artists feel that as well. Most want to keep moving forward. But I always punctuate all this with, ‘Never say never. You never know.'”