Smart and edgy fits the bill at HBO
HBO’s VP of original programming Carole Rosen knows a good thing when she sees it. In fact, not much can seriously influence Rosen’s buying decisions before she’s had a sit-down screening of the product. So, although a fair amount of industry buzz surrounded the short film Trevor, Rosen reserved judgment until she saw it. Based in Manhattan, Rosen has overseen the development and production of all documentaries and family programming for HBO and Cinemax since 1995.
‘The quality is terrific,’ says Rosen of this story of a young boy who attempts suicide because he’s gay and not accepted. The film is ‘fairly edgy,’ Rosen explains. ‘That would be our theme at HBO. It deals with a subject that is very important for teens and parents to view together to open up a conversation.’ Rosen said that HBO frequently acquires products that deal with subjects other networks would shy away from.
Trevor premiered in a half-hour block as an HBO family special on August 11, then on HBO Family on August 13, both at 7:30 p.m. The short then aired four or five times during the rest of August.
HBO is a premium subscription U.S. cable channel which targets ages 18 and up, but since 43% of HBO’s subscribing households have at least one child under 18, and 34% have a child under 12, family programming has become an increasing priority, as evidenced by the upcoming re-launch of HBO Family and its whole new programming slate in January.
The film was brought to Rosen by a production team that she already knew and respected: Randy Stone, executive producer of Little Man Tate and director Peggy Rajinski, whose producing credits include Home for the Holidays. Other factors Trevor had going for it included an Oscar in the short subject category, and an association with a Manhattan-based non-profit organization called the Trevor Project Hotline, a toll-free service for gay teens who are suicidal.
Rosen says HBO branded Trevor by attaching actress Ellen DeGeneres in a wrap-around. ‘We always try to bring our talent to the mix,’ notes Rosen of the branding move.
HBO Family’s full acquisitions slate will be announced at a special MIPCOM event, but so far Rosen says well-known, book-based animation tops the list of product being sought for the HBO Kids Block, which runs from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Recent acquisitions include Cinar’s Paddington Bear, Country Mouse, City Mouse and Little Lulu, as well as Nelvana’s Babar. George & Martha from Nelvana is HBO’S first original animated series.
‘We’re looking for classic types of shows moving deeply into literature,’ says Rosen, citing a recently launched animated Shakespeare series as an example of products HBO feels are ideal for the brand. As for HBO Family’s license fees, the channel is paying between US$10,000 and US$100,000 per episode for U.S. broadcast rights.