Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

“The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO becomes ours.”

That Netflix executive Ted Sarandos in 2013, Shortly before jumping into the main content with his company House of cards. And not just the main content – the shiny big budget stuff created by a famous director, where a famous actor (at that time) was. HBO-style content.

Even if you don’t follow the media business closely, you probably know what happened next: with House of cards, Netflix has proven, very quickly, that it can show as good a thing as a fake pay TV network. And then Netflix started making a lot more and consumers loved it too. And now Netflix is ​​the company that every other Media companies want to emulate – And that’s the main reason for every big media company Trying to make a decision Whether to buy or sell it to all the other big media companies.

But it didn’t go that way. In 2005, two years before Netflix entered the streaming business, some HBO executives were pressuring companies to do the same. They wanted HBO to use the Internet to sell subscriptions directly to customers instead of wholesale to large cable TV distributors.

A year later, after passing that idea, HBO considered another move that would rewrite media history: some of its executives wanted to buy Netflix from HBO, which at the time was a nearly $ 1 billion DVD rental-by-mail business.

Netflix is ​​now valued at around $ 300 billion. And HBO, which has not started selling its own Services like Netflix As of 2015, streaming competitors like Disney +, Peacock and Amazon Prime Video are under pressure to keep up with a host, not just Netflix. Meanwhile, HBO’s parent company has changed three times in the last three years.

These two stories about HBO’s non-determination, which I have never seen reported before, appear in it Tinderbox: HBO’s ruthless pursuit of new frontiers, A new oral history book by journalist James Andrew Miller, who has previously dealt with major media organizations. ESPN And Live Saturday night. The book is a 50-year story that is partly the backstage of game-changing shows created by HBO. Game of Thrones, And partly the history behind HBO, which is abundant Got it– Like plot twists. I talked to Miller about it this week Record media Episodes, which you can listen to below this post or on your favorite podcast platform.

But as Miller’s stories are eyebrow-raising, you don’t want to overweight the alternative histories that can make them.

Even if HBO and Time Warner, its parent company in 2005, decided to start selling HBO programming directly to consumers at that time, it might not be successful. At the time, most U.S. homes still did not have broadband Internet. More importantly, the TV industry only fought hard to ensure it was not displaced when HBO relied on its distribution.

And the purchase of Netflix in 2006 did not guarantee that HBO would end its ownership of the Netflix company today. If anything, Netflix, once part of a larger entertainment consortium, would have made a different decision when it was a small player trying to figure out how to compete with entertainment.

Nevertheless, the stories that Miller unveils in his book are useful reminders of what we often hear about media history – or any history – just that: narratives, depending on who is telling them, tend to be clearer and simpler.

In this case, HBO and Time Warner are often portrayed as lumbering big media dinosaurs who are blinded by the future. And the truth is that the former Time Warner CEO Jeff Beaux Netflix and both have gone out of their way to talk down Emergence of wire cord cut, When both were increased, helps to strengthen the argument. But at least some HBO executives are seeing what complicates what’s going to happen in their industry: should they be credited for their insights, even if they can’t work on it?

Speaking of Beaux, who has been treated fairly well in Miller’s book: He says that by 2014, he also understood what Netflix and the rest of the technology business were doing to his company, even if he had not publicly stated: “We will go digital. To compete with the Giants, we need to either acquire or merge with someone to get what we need, or if that fails, we have to sell Time Warner … … I told the board that in the long run, Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon And perhaps Apple is going to empty all media outlets. ”

Bewkes even discuss His company’s coordination with Apple, But in his words, Apple was not ready for it: “If I could do it.”

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