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AI is no substitute for human creativity, says HBO boss Casey Bloys   

Bloys (centre) with House of the Dragon showrunner Ryan Condal (left) and WBD CEO and president of global streaming JB Perrette

Casey Bloys, chairman and CEO of HBO and Max content at Warner Bros Discovery (WBD), has spoken out against the use of artificial intelligence (AI) when it comes to creating content, describing it as a “depressing thought.”

Speaking to C21 ahead of the European premiere of the second season of hit Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon in Paris last night, the HBO veteran rejected any suggestion that AI could play any meaningful part in the commissioning or storytelling process.

“The idea that we, as executives or networks or platforms, would go directly to AI and cut out writers or creative people, that has never made sense to me,” Bloys said. “That’s not really an industry I want to be involved with. You know, where we’re cutting out creativity. That seems kind of nonsensical to me.”

Bloys’ comments come after the potential threat of AI formed a key part of the strikes among both writers and actors in Hollywood last year, with both parties concerned over the possibility of AI taking jobs.

“If a writer for some reason decides, for their creative process, they want to employ it, that’s up to them,” Bloys continued. “But I’d rather not work in an industry where a platform is going directly to AI and saying, ‘Give me a spy thriller, set in the 1980s, with international appeal.’

“That’s a pretty depressing thought. So anything that bypasses writers, directors or actors – to say it would be subpar would be an understatement.”

However, the HBO boss did concede that some emerging AI tools could benefit other areas of the content business, such as dubbing.

“With dubbing, where they can not only dub it, but dub it to make it look like actors are speaking whatever language [by digitally manipulating mouth movements], in whatever region, that is potentially very interesting. I think right now it’s still too expensive,” he said.

“The thing that is most troublesome to people is replacing a creative process with it. But if you’re talking about making production easier in the same way we use volume stages to save going on location… For things that make production easier, sure.”

AI dubbing technology could become increasingly interesting to Bloys as WBD’s flagship streaming platform, Max, continues its international roll-out, with Bloys telling C21 that Max’s local content strategy will continue to be built around “tentpole” US programming such as House of the Dragon and The Last of Us.

“Those tentpole series tend to do well internationally,” he said. “They tend to travel Latin America, Europe, Asia… They do well around the globe. So, the fortunate part about our commissioning in the US is those types of shows do well domestically and they do well internationally. The job then, in different regions, is what do you put around those shows?

“For local people, local original programming is always going to be almost as important as the big tentpole shows. Whether that is dramas or comedies or documentaries really depends on the country, the region and where they want to invest their resources. But I do think that the tentpole line-up is a good thing for them to build around.

Max will arrive in France and Poland on June 11, when it also launches in Netherlands and Belgium, but it will retain the HBO Max name in the latter two markets.

WBD already operates HBO Max in more than 20 countries across the Nordics, Iberia, Netherlands and Central and Eastern Europe and in most of these markets it is in the process of being replaced by Max to incorporate content from Discovery+.

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