Cinemax will join sister premium
network HBO in the scripted-series arena with
the launch of two action-themed series later
The Aug. 12 launch of its first original series,
Strike Back, will also be the catalyst for the
launch of the network’s MaxGo app for iPad
and other portable devices, according to Eric
Kessler, co-president of HBO.
The 10-episode action/thriller series Strike
Back, based on a U.K. series of the same name,
stars Sullivan Stapleton as a former U.S. Special
Forces operative who teams with an elite British
military unit led by Philip Winchester to try
to thwart an international terrorist group.
A second series, based on the popular Transporter
movie franchise, will debut later this fall,
“We looked at all the programming out there,
and we looked at the business generally, and we
thought it was an opportunity to create longform,
serialized, action series,” Kessler said.
“We thought Cinemax was the perfect place for
that type of programming, because the brand
skews male and we decided to reposition the
brand from mainstream popcorn entertainment
to kind of a younger, edgier personality.”
Indeed, the network decided to launch with
testosterone-driven action shows in an effort
to reach the network’s heavily male audience.
Action movies such as Transformers: Revenge of
the Fallen, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Terminator:
Salvation, Sherlock Holmes and Fast & Furious
were rated among the top 10 most-watched
movies on the network in 2010, according to
Kary Antholis, president of HBO miniseries.
“We looked at the top-rated movies on Cinemax
and what we found consistently is that
high-octane, high-adrenaline, accessible movies
were what people watched and wanted to
watch,” he said, adding that women also tune
into such programming.
“What we sought to do is to look for projects
that we could get into that were in the ballpark
of what was competitive with what pay channels
pay,” Antholis added.
Kessler said HBO is not looking for additional
license fees for Cinemax, given the added
value original programming is expected to
bring, although he said the network is always
talking to operators about its investment in
“This is going to uniquely position Max within
the pay TV environment, and the affiliates
are very appreciative of that fact that we’re
making a significant investment in programming
and [they] responded enthusiastically
about the launch,” he said.
HBO is putting significant promotion behind
the launch of Strike Back — including running
spots promoting Cinemax product on HBO
for the first time — as well as running spots in
“We are launching this like a significant series
on HBO,” Kessler said. “The series will get
the full marketing support that we give to HBO
Antholis would not predict how the series
will perform but said the positive feedback
from affiliates has already made the series a
success for Cinemax.
“The success of these shows is in the enthusiasm
that they create among the affiliates for
Cinemax and for the programming on Cinemax,”
he said. “If they’re more engaged to sell
Cinemax, to really present it and view it as a
premium to subscribers, then we will have
done our job.”
Cinemax’s original series will help launch
the network’s MaxGo app service, which will
be available for Apple and Google Android
devices, Kessler said. The app will be similar
to the HBO Go app launched last April,
which has been downloaded more than 3.5
“We think it will do particularly well in the
online world,” he said.