- HBO is expected to double the number of original-scripted-programming hours it had in 2018 this year, as it goes head-to-head with Netflix in the streaming wars.
- In total, HBO had 500 hours of original programming in 2018, an HBO spokesperson told Business Insider.
- But Netflix is still way ahead. The streaming giant put out 2,392 hours of original content last year, according to an estimate by the Wall Street firm Cowen and Company.
After AT&T bought Time Warner last year, it immediately made known its intentions for the newly minted WarnerMedia’s premium cable network, HBO: ramp up the production of original TV shows and movies to compete with Netflix.
And we are now starting to see that play out. HBO is expected to have 150 hours of original scripted programming this year – double the 75 hours it had in 2018 – a number that will likely rise again in 2020, HBO’s programming boss told The New York Times.
In total, HBO put out 500 hours of original content in the US in 2018, counting scripted content, documentaries, talks shows, and other formats, an HBO spokesperson told Business Insider.
But it’s still far behind Netflix, and it’s not even close.
Netflix had 483 hours of original programming in just the first quarter of 2018, according to an estimate from the Wall Street firm Cowen and Company. That decreased slightly in the second quarter to 452 hours but rose again to 676 hours in the third quarter, and then to a high of 781 hours in the fourth quarter. Netflix put out an estimated grand total of 2,392 original-programming hours in 2018. (Netflix did not respond to a request for confirmation from Business Insider, and an exact figure can get complicated for Netflix because of various types of worldwide licensing deals.)
The chart below shows an estimate of Netflix’s original-programming hours released in 2018:
- Yutong Yuan/Business Insider
Netflix put out nearly five times more hours of original content than HBO in 2018. And the streaming giant’s goal was to have 1,000 new original movies and shows in its catalog by the end of 2018, content head Ted Sarandos said in May.
The chart below compares the hours of original content for HBO and Netflix in 2018:
- Yutong Yuan/Business Insider
But the number of hours isn’t everything.
HBO has already developed a sterling reputation with creators and talent. It is known for its quality programming and credited with kick-starting the golden age of TV.
Last year was the first time in 17 years that HBO didn’t receive the most Emmy nominations of any network. It came in second. Netflix came in first, with 112 nominations against HBO’s 108. The two networks ultimately tied for most wins with 23 each, despite the imbalance in the number of hours released.
Hello, Monday night
HBO’s focus in recent years has been on a stacked prime-time lineup on Sunday nights. But that strategy will shift under AT&T’s control, and there will soon be two hours of prime-time scripted content on Monday nights as well, The New York Times reported.
AT&T is also expected to launch its own streaming service this year that would include HBO.
The ramp-up in the production of content shows AT&T and WarnerMedia’s new focus to get subscribers to “engage” more frequently with HBO.
“It’s not hours a week, and it’s not hours a month,” WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey said during a town hall last July. “We need hours a day. You are competing with devices that sit in people’s hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes. I want more hours of engagement.”
“If you think about the battle we’re in right now, it’s a battle for customer engagement,” Stankey told CNN. “Our job is to figure out how to get our fair share … If you can control your intellectual property, then you have the flexibility as to how you move it around your technology platforms. And this becomes even more important if you start thinking about the global dynamics of this industry and how it’s going to evolve over time.”