The 74th Emmy Awards last night opened with host Kenan Thompson declaring TV “the greatest invention of all time,” a means of making books and even sex irrelevant. by its greatness. That optimism permeated the ceremony itself, from the introduction to the keynote to the (sometimes seemingly endless) accompaniment of the evening. But it’s hard to ignore some of the ominous, if sometimes unspoken, omen that haunt the night, even for the victors.
“We know how lucky we are to have the exact show we want exactly the way we want it,” said John Oliver, accepting the award for Best Variety Talk for the series. Last week Tonight with John Oliver. Oliver’s show is just one of many picked up by HBO and HBO Max this year, one out of 37 to be exact. But HBO’s big night has come when equally major changes threaten to change the network and the way its creators operate.
The merger of Warner Bros. and Discovery have sent shockwaves through its network and streaming service, with HBO Max immediately hit hardest from the austerity measures imposed by new CEO David Zaslav launched, through jerked programs, canceled projects and the freezing of Bat girl. It’s not yet clear what happens next, but underneath the gratitude, Oliver’s comment resembles the sentiments of a creator preparing for impact. Yes, Oliver and his staff are lucky. But who knows how long that good fortune will last?
The central question is: Yes, HBO and HBO Max have won big. Teams behind Heir and The White Lotus sometimes leave the stage only to be called back immediately and Hacks, Euphoriaand Jerrod Carmichael’s comedy special Rothaniel also took home major awards (in addition to many of the honors picked by the network at previous Creative Arts Emmys). But is that enough? HBO has always been a business, but it looks like HBO is on the verge of entering a new era in which profits are more important than ever. The HBO of 2023 and beyond will resemble the HBO of 2022, and the years leading up to it remain to be seen.
Then again, the same can be said for television in general. When presenting the award for Best Limited Series, Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak gently mocked the short seasons and small range of creators working in that field before Novak concluded that “honestly that said, we’re in awe of the incredible things these artists can do with nothing but unlimited time and resources. But even that may be different next year as budgets tighten. HBO isn’t the only network to scale back. Netflix has had to reassess its priorities following its announcement in April that it had lost 200,000 subscribers and followers in July, the service revealed that it had lost nearly a million more.In May, Disney announced that Disney+ had gained subscribers, but also plans to cut costs.The arms race-like era of liberal spending to flood the market with content seems to be tightening.
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