Samba TV: ‘Westworld Season 4’ Premiere Lagged Behind Other Pandemic-Delayed HBO Programs

Due to the pandemic, it’s been two years since there was a new season of HBO/HBO Max’s dystopian series, “Westworld”. The June 26 debut of season four generated 915,000 U.S. households during the live plus three-day window, according to new data from Samba TV. That was down 46% from the 1.7 million multi-platform viewers for the debut of season three.

Samba, which says it tracks an addressable footprint of 46 million opted-in devices worldwide, said the season four premiere lagged significantly behind the debuts of two other high-profile HBO programs also delayed by the pandemic.

The research firm said 1.3 million U.S. households watched the second season launch of “Euphoria” during the L+3D window, while 1.2 million U.S. households watched the third season debut of Succession 301 during the L+3D window.

“[The return of ‘Westworld’] to HBO and HBO Max after more than a two-year hiatus … fell short of several other HBO original programming also paused during the pandemic,” Cole Strain, VP of measurement products at Samba TV, said in a statement.

The decline in “Westword” viewership appears to be a trend. Separate data found that an average of 810,000 viewers watched third-season. The first season was the show’s most popular, with 1.82 million average total viewers and a 0.8 rating within the 18 to 49 demographic, according to Statista. Ratings dropped each season, with the 18-49 rating for the third season.

Doc Series ‘Edge of the Earth’ to Debut on HBO and HBO Max July 12

The four-part documentary series from HBO and Teton Gravity Research “Edge of the Earth” will debut July 12 on HBO and HBO Max. 
A blend of action-adventure sport, travel journal and nature documentary, the series follows four groups of elite action-adventure athletes on four unique, never-before-accomplished missions. Taking place around the globe, within awe-inspiring, undiscovered realms of nature, each installment features a different team of adventurers journeying into the wild to take on endeavors of physical prowess and mental fortitude. 

As the athletes venture up and down mountains, down rivers and across oceans, they rise to meet intense, life-threatening challenges that test their decision-making and athletic capacity.
Directed by Steve Jones and Todd Jones and produced by Drew Holt, the series features aerial photography and immersive video in some of the world’s least accessible and rarely seen locations. Taking part are snowboarders Jeremy Jones and Elena Hight and skier Griffin Post; kayakers Ben Stookesberry, Nouria Newman and Erik Boomer; climbers Emily Harrington and Adrian Ballinger; and surfers Ian Walsh and Grant “Twiggy” Baker.
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Episodes include “Into the Void” on July 12, which follows a human-powered ski and snowboard expedition in the icy wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska; “Raging Torrent” on July 19, about a first descent attempt of the potentially impassable Chalupas River in the vast jungle of the Llanganates National Park in Ecuador; “Reaching for the Sky” on July 26, about an attempt to accomplish the first individual free climb ascent of a near impossible free route on Pik Slesova in Kyrgyzstan; and “The Great Unknown” on Aug. 2, which follows a pursuit of never before ridden big waves along the remote West Coast of South Africa. 

HBO and HBO Max Added 3 Million Subscribers in the First Quarter

HBO and HBO Max continue to grow market share and combined subscriber bases globally. Majority parent AT&T April 21 reported that the pay-TV platform and branded subscription streaming video service ended the first quarter (ended March 31) with 76.8 million subscribers worldwide. That’s up 3 million subs from the end of 2021.

By comparison, Netflix, despite shedding 200,000 net subs, ended Q1 with more than 221 million subs.

The numbers exclude free trials, basic and Cinemax subscribers. Domestic Max/HBO subs also consist of U.S. accounts with access to Max (including wholesale subs and members receiving access through bundled services with affiliates that may not have signed in) and HBO accounts.

Both Max and HBO are minority owned and majority operated by Discovery as part of the new Warner Bros. Discovery media company (formerly WarnerMedia) after the $43 billion asset sale by AT&T to Discovery.

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Global Max and HBO subscribers increased 12.8 million from 64 million subs at the end of 2020. AT&T said the growth was primarily driven by international as well as domestic retail subscriber gains, which it claimed reflected the strength of the programming slate.

At the end of the quarter, there were 48.6 million domestic Max and HBO subs versus 44.2 million in the year-ago quarter, up 4.4 million subs from the previous year period.

“AT&T has entered a new era, meeting this opportunistic moment from a position of flexibility and strength thanks to our evolving networks, enhanced customer experience, growing 5G and fiber customer base and a much stronger balance sheet,” AT&T CEO John Stankey said in a statement.

‘Game of Thrones’ Prequel ‘House of the Dragon’ to Debut on HBO, HBO Max Aug. 21

The “Game of Thrones” prequel series “House of the Dragon” will debut on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max Aug. 21.

The 10-episode HBO Original drama series is based on George R.R. Martin’s “Fire & Blood” and is set 200 years before the events of “Game of Thrones.” It tells the story of House Targaryen. 

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The series stars Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, Olivia Cooke, Emma D’Arcy, Steve Toussaint, Eve Best, Fabien Frankel, Sonoya Mizuno,and Rhys Ifans. Other cast members include Milly Alcock, Bethany Antonia, Phoebe Campbell, Emily Carey, Harry Collett, Ryan Corr, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jefferson Hall, David Horovitch, Wil Johnson, John Macmillan, Graham McTavish, Ewan Mitchell, Theo Nate, Matthew Needham, Bill Paterson, Phia Saban, Gavin Spokes and Savannah Steyn.

Detroit Lions to Star in 17th Season of HBO/HBO Max’s NFL Training Camp Series ‘Hard Knocks’

HBO Sports and NFL Films are partnering with the Detroit Lions for an unfiltered look at what it takes to make it in the National Football League with “Hard Knocks: Training Camp With the Detroit Lions,” which debuts Aug. 9 on HBO and HBO Max, with additional hour-long episodes bowing subsequent Tuesdays at the same time, culminating in the Sept. 6 season finale.

This season marks the 17th edition of the 18-time Sports Emmy-winning series. HBO has aired 82 episodes and one anniversary special in its first 16 seasons.

Camera crews will head to the Lions’ training camp in Allen Park, Mich., in the next few months to begin shooting more than 1,750 hours of footage over the course of the series. In August, the cinema verité show will focus on the daily lives and routines of players and coaches. The series, which will be narrated by Liev Schreiber, chronicles Lions head coach Dan Campbell entering his second season leading the team, which includes a mix of young emerging stars, established veterans and free agent additions.

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“As ‘Hard Knocks’ enters its third decade, we are both thrilled and thankful for the opportunity to feature a historic franchise like the Lions,” Ken Rodgers, NFL Films VP and senior coordinating producer, said in a statement. “The city, the culture and the coaching staff in Detroit all have an exciting energy that will make the show must-watch television this summer.”

The series launched with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, followed by the Dallas Cowboys in 2002, and resumed in 2007 with the Kansas City Chiefs, subsequently spotlighting the Cowboys (2008), Cincinnati Bengals (2009), New York Jets (2010), Miami Dolphins (2012), Bengals (2013), Atlanta Falcons (2014), Houston Texans (2015) and Los Angeles Rams (2016).

The 2017 edition chronicled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and captured the Sports Emmy for Outstanding Serialized Documentary. The widely acclaimed 2018 series with the Cleveland Browns earned two Sports Emmy Awards for production excellence. The 2019 series spotlighted the Oakland Raiders as they played their final season in the Bay area before moving the franchise to Las Vegas. In an unprecedented programming move, the 2020 edition spotlighted both Los Angeles NFL teams: The Los Angeles Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams. Last year featured “America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys, marking their third appearance on the series.

Eleven of the last 13 teams featured on the series have equaled or improved their win-loss record in the regular season. The Cleveland Browns launched the transformation of their organization on HBO and went from a winless 2017 season to coming within half a game (7-8-1) of a .500 campaign.  The 2019 season saw the Raiders improve their record to 7-9 from the previous year’s 4-12 mark. Both Los Angeles’ teams, Rams and Chargers, improved their records in 2020 with two more wins from the previous year, with the Rams making the playoffs. Last year the Cowboys won their division going 12-5 from the previous year’s 6-10 mark.

Doc ‘Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off’ to Debut April 5 on HBO and HBO Max

The HBO Original documentary film Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off will debut April 5 on HBO and HBO Max.

Directed by Sam Jones and executive produced by Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass and Mel Eslyn (HBO’s “The Lady and The Dale” and “Somebody Somewhere”), the film is an all-encompassing look at the skateboarder’s life, career and relationship with the sport with which he’s been synonymous for decades. A pioneer of modern vertical skating who is still pushing his limits at the age of 53, Hawk remains one of the most influential skateboarders of all time.
Featuring never-before-seen archival footage, the film chronicles Hawk’s meteoric rise from awkward teen outsider in the radical sport of the 1980s — where his father’s efforts to standardize and regulate the nascent competitions complicated his early success and relationships — to multiple X Games gold medalist, trick innovator, entrepreneur, and 12-time National Skateboard Association world champion. While the film celebrates Hawk’s single-minded pursuit of his passion, his relentless, and ultimately successful drive to master the elusive “900” and his refusal to bend to the reality of middle age, it also reveals the perils of fame and notoriety and the constant threat to his physical well-being. 

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The film features interviews with Hawk; filmmaker/skateboard pioneer Stacy Peralta; and professional skateboarders Rodney Mullen, Mike McGill, Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero, Neil Blender, Andy MacDonald, Duane Peters, Sean Mortimer, Christian Hosoi and others.
The soundtrack includes the sounds of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, including tracks by The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Echo and The Bunnymen, Joy Division, Pavement, Oingo Boingo, The Replacements, XTC and New Order.

Third Season of ‘Succession’ Due on DVD and Digital May 17

The third season of “Succession” will be released on DVD and digital May 17 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Season three of “Succession,” the HBO original series that follows the saga of a powerful media family, includes all nine episodes. The drama series tracks the lives of a wealthy patriarch and his four grown children who control one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world.

“Succession” explores themes of power and family dynamics through the eyes of patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his children Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Siobhan (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Connor (Alan Ruck). The series’ second season won a total of seven Emmys, including Outstanding Drama Series.

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Season three finds Logan in a perilous position, scrambling to secure familial, political, and financial alliances after he was ambushed by his rebellious son Kendall. After Kendall’s impulsive decision to expose the company’s sprawling scandal, the family is left to each contemplate their own future. Tensions rise as a bitter corporate battle threatens to turn into a family civil war, with the Roy family navigating the looming questions of who will take over in a post-Logan world.

Bonus material includes “Who Said It?”; “Roy Family Food Chain”; and “Succession: Controlling the Narrative.”

‘Game of Thrones’ Available for 4K Ultra HD Digital Purchase Exclusively on Vudu

For the first time ever digitally, consumers can purchase the HBO series “Game of Thrones” in 4K Ultra HD only through Vudu, Fandango’s transactional VOD service.

Vudu is currently the only digital retailer making “Game of Thrones” available in 4K Ultra HD as a complete series bundle or by season, according to the service.

“Game of Thrones” is available on Vudu in 4K Ultra HD for a limited time at the HD price. Seasons one through six in UHD are $24.99 each, with shorter seasons seven and eight in UHD available for $19.99 each, and the entire eight-season series bundle in UHD available for $99.99. Those who previously purchased one or more seasons or the complete series bundle in SD or HD on Vudu will be able to upgrade to 4K UHD on Vudu for $5 per season or $30 for the complete series.

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The latest UHD offering from Vudu follows the service’s success as the exclusive 4K Ultra HD provider of Kevin Costner’s “Yellowstone,” one of its most-popular TV series of all time, according to the service.

HBO Renews Julian Fellowes Period Drama ‘The Gilded Age’

The HBO period drama “The Gilded Age” has been renewed for a second season.

From creator Julian Fellowes (“Downton Abbey”), the series debuted on Jan. 24 with episodes currently streaming on HBO Max. The nine-episode first season stars Carrie Coon, Morgan Spector, Louisa Jacobson, Denée Benton, Taissa Farmiga, Blake Ritson, Simon Jones, Harry Richardson, Thomas Cocquerel, Jack Gilpin, Cynthia Nixon and Christine Baranski.

The season one finale will air March 21.
The series explores inhabitants of the American Gilded Age, a period of immense economic change, of great conflict between the old ways and new systems, and of huge fortunes made and lost. The series begins in 1882 with young Marian Brook (Jacobson) moving from rural Pennsylvania to New York City after the death of her father to live with her thoroughly old money aunts Agnes van Rhijn (Baranski) and Ada Brook (Nixon). Accompanied by Peggy Scott (Benton), an aspiring writer seeking a fresh start, Marian inadvertently becomes enmeshed in a social war between one of her aunts, a scion of the old money set, and her stupendously rich neighbors, a ruthless railroad tycoon and his ambitious wife, George (Spector) and Bertha Russell (Coon).

The first episode of “The Gilded Age” premiered as HBO’s best Monday night debut since “Chernobyl,” according to an HBO press release. 

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“Julian Fellowes and the entire ‘Gilded Age’ family have thoroughly captivated us with their tale of late 19th century New York City extravagance,” Francesca Orsi, EVP of HBO programming, said in a statement. “Along with our partners at Universal Television, we couldn’t be prouder to embark on a season two journey with this extraordinarily talented team.”
“The first season of ‘The Gilded Age’ is the beginning of an epic story that introduced a fascinating world full of intriguing characters,” Erin Underhill, president of Universal Television, said in a statement. “The scope of Julian’s vision is ambitious, and we’re thrilled to continue to explore the depths of this fascinating era with HBO.”

WarnerMedia, Discovery Merger Clears U.S. Regulatory Hurdle

Consummation of Discovery’s $43 billion minority stake, majority control of WarnerMedia appears to have cleared federal regulator oversight. Specifically, the U.S. Antitrust Agency’s waiting period to intervene on the transaction expired, according to WarnerMedia parent AT&T and Discovery.

“As of Feb. 9, 2022, Discovery and AT&T have satisfied the closing condition in Section 9.1 of the Agreement and Plan of Merger, dated as of May 17, 2021, relating to the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976,” read the regulatory filing.

“The HSR Act statutory waiting period has expired or otherwise been terminated, and any agreement not to consummate the transaction between the parties and the Federal Trade Commission or the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice or any other applicable governmental entity, has also expired or otherwise been terminated.”

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The lone hurdle remaining in the creation of the new Warner Bros. Discovery company is an approval vote by Discovery shareholders, reportedly considered a formality.

The new company, which includes Warner Bros., HBO, Turner, HBO Max, HGTV, Magnolia Network and Discovery+, will be run by Discovery CEO David Zaslav.

The transaction brings under one corporate roof Turner’s major sports TV broadcast rights, together with Discovery’s Eurosport media company, which controls Olympics media distribution across Europe. Current WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar is expected to leave the company later this year.