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While Netflix famously mines its data to figure out which original shows it wants to make, Jeff Bewkes, the CEO of HBO parent company Time Warner, isn’t going to let that drive his decisions.
“We’re programming the show,” not the audience data, Bewkes said at the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom Conference on Tuesday, Deadline reported.
“Are the consumers by their habits programming the show itself, or are you programming?” Bewkes asked. He said that Time Warner is firmly in the second category.
“If you don’t like it, we’re sorry,” he said. “But that’s how we get big breakthroughs. If you ask creators what they want, most of them go with that.”
Bewkes sentiments echoed recent comments by “Logan” screenwriter Scott Frank, who cautioned against having movies be too driven by marketing, and by understanding exactly what elements audience segments will respond to. Frank said that if marketing completely rules the output of a studio, the movies start to become formulaic. That doesn’t mean they won’t be successful for a time, but eventually it “becomes the snake that eats its own tail,” he said.
Bewkes did, however, admit there were some benefits to audience data, especially in advertising.
“We’re leading with data-driven advertising products to give you [return on investment] and engagement,” Bewkes said, The Wrap reported. “We think our partnership with AT&T will help accelerate our capabilities there.”
He pointed out that this was one of the benefits of HBO Now, the company’s standalone streaming service that people can buy without a cable package. HBO Now has over 2 million subscribers.
“The more over-the-top or digital standalone HBO subs we get and the more data we get from it, the more capable we are of [delivering those products],” Bewkes said.
So while customer data might not be as useful for Bewkes in determining the next HBO show, data on HBO customers will help Time Warner deliver ads over all its various properties, and all of AT&T’s if the merger goes through.