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HBO must 'change direction' to flourish, says its new boss

User engagement must be increased to make HBO into a perennial product.
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Nicole Lee/Flickr

With 42 million US subscribers, almost six billion dollars in profit over the past three years, and 29 Primetime Emmy Awards in 2017 alone, it goes without saying HBO is doing something right. But according to AT&T executive and newly enthroned WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey, the network must broaden its focus if it wants to maintain proper competitive footing in the fluctuating media landscape.

When AT&T successfully acquired HBO's parent company Time Warner (Fox made a similar attempt in 2014) last month, part of the deal included the ability to track and target audiences. It's this that could be an essential ingredient in Stankey's vision for transforming HBO.

Maximizing user engagement, it seems, is especially important for creating better monetization opportunities. Stankey revealed that keeping users glued to the screen for longer would allow HBO to peddle new subscriptions and alternative advertising models. At the same time, he's cognizant of the dangers involved in making HBO bigger and better from here onward.

"It's going to be a tough year...It's going to be a lot of work to alter and change direction a little bit."

While Stankey didn't mention Netflix, Hulu, or other streaming rivals outright, he did hint that HBO's business model needs to adapt in order to become what chairman Richard Plepler describes as 'sustainable': "We need hours a day...It's not hours a week, and it's not hours a month. We need hours a day. You are competing with devices that sit in people's hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes." Stankey told The New York Times.

HBO might be facing pressure to add "other types of content" to its HBO Now service to really flourish, however, the quality of its programs should never lose their brilliant sheen if the network intends to retain customer loyalty.

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