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Felix Gillette and John Koblin are journalists who have covered the entertainment business. It’s Not TV (2022), looks at the careers of several executive employees of Home Box Office, the evolution of HBO as a premium cable brand, and its struggles to maintain its reputation and revenues after Internet streaming became a method of broadcasting.
The book is mainly a series of stories about the producers, directors, writers and some of the the actors of almost all of the successful premium cable HBO movies, TV series, documentaries, comedy specials that HBO distributed through to the end of 2021 – including David Chase (The Sopranos), David Simon (The Wire), David Milch (Deadwood). It mentions cases when HBO killed projects after spending money and time on them It has stories about scandals and disputes within HBO. It mainly suggests that HBO’s institutional culture fostered the successes, and that HBO deserves credit for making its brand successful.
The book notes that HBO proclaimed its progressive stance in the US culture wars but complains about HBO’s slow progress in becoming sufficiently diverse and inclusive to tell some stories that some persons wanted told, and providing resources to some writers, actors, producers, and promoters. This appears to be an accusation that HBO historically practised Woke capitalism. Since HBO was a profit-seeking entity in the American neo-liberal economy, HBO employees were never able to do what shareholders, managers, creatives and consumers wanted at any given point in time.
The book’s storytelling about content producers will appeal to fans of HBO and its shows.
The book does not discuss technical issues, financial data or viewer data, or the broadcasting business.
The book mentions HBO’s use of satellites to distribute pay-per-view sports in the 1970s and to send content to cable distributors. The book touches on technical successes in the use of satellite signals to receive and distribute contents, and coding satellite transmissions of HBO content to cable companies to frustrate signal piracy, which disrupted the home satellite dish markets. The book mentions HBO’s relationship with the American cable industry, but fails to discuss the reliance of HBO on the cable companies’ control of cable converters to protect content creators and distributors, or the rent-seeking behaviour of HBO, its owners and the cable industry. It mentions, but does explain that HBO was slow in pivoting from cable to streaming, and the reasons that its business was disrupted by the development of broadband internet.
The book mentions HBO’s problems with developing software but does not otherwise explain the delay in developing software that would distribute content to streaming devices. HBO and its owners and partners continue to license their properties to cable consortiums elsewhere in the world and developed HBO Max as a serve to cable subscribers rather than a streaming service. The conversion of the service to a an internet streaming service was awkward, and frustrating for internet customers before and after the merger of Warner and Discovery, and the reorganization of streaming services with the conglomerate.
The book does not discuss the reasons that HBO Max dropped several programs in 2022. National Public Radio's Planet Money addressed this in a 25 minute podcast called "Dude, Where's My Streaming TV Show" March 10, 2023.
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BraveKelso | Jan 29, 2023 |

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