Home Box Office may have garnered critical acclaim from such original series as The Sopranos
and Oz, but it's the theatricals that keep people subscribing to the pay service, according to HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht.
HBO's original movies and series have generally garnered the highest ratings for the network over the past few years. Yet Albrecht maintains that movies drive retention of loyal viewers.
As a result, the network has reached distribution deals with major studios like Warner Bros., 20th Century-Fox and Dreamworks SKG, which produce at least 50% of all current theatrical titles.
"[Movies] are still the No. 1 attribute of why people historically have HBO," Albrecht said during HBO's presentation at the recent Television Critics Association summer press tour in Hollywood. "What our research has shown is the longer you've had HBO, the more important theatrical movies are to you."
Original programming — including movies, series and sports — appeals to the lion's share of new subscribers.
With particular respect to series, Albrecht said HBO — through its numerous television awards and industry kudos — has shown it can compete in the original programming genre and is looking to expand its current lineup.
The network is currently shopping a syndication deal for one of its popular series, Sex and The City. Albrecht would only confirm that HBO is in active discussions with both cable and broadcast networks.
"We will continue to explore and expand, and take risks in that area because we want to be in the series business as a main part of our strategy as well," Albrecht said.
On that front, the network said it will debut two new series this fall: Carnivale, a dark drama about a traveling circus show; and K Street, the George Clooney vehicle depicting a fictional political consulting firm.
In 2004, the network will bow Deadwood, its first Western series, according to Albrecht.