It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO. So, in 2015, we will launch a stand-alone, over-the-top, HBO service in the United States. We will work with our current partners. And, we will explore models with new partners. All in, there are 80 million homes that do not have HBO and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them.

Richard Plepler, chairman and CEO of HBO, in a press release today released during the Time Warner investor meeting.

Yesssssssssssssss. Finally.

Cynthia Littleton:

HBO at long last has confirmed the first specifics about season two of drama series “True Detective,” including the casting of Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn in lead roles.

Story will revolve around three cops and career criminal who navigate a web of conspiracy after a murder.

Farrell plays Ray Velcoro, a compromised detective whose allegiances are torn between his masters in a corrupt police department and the mobster who owns him. Vaughn plays Frank Semyon, a man in danger of losing his criminal empire when his move into legitimate enterprise is upended by the murder of a business partner.

“Fast and Furious” helmer Justin Lin is on board to direct the first two episodes of the eight-episode season. Lensing is set to begin later this fall in California for a January premiere.

All jokes aside, you better believe I’ll be watching this. The best part of the first season of True Detective was the writing and the cinematic quality of the entire production — it really was like a great, eight-hour film.

The fact that it was Matthew McConaughey’s best performance ever (for my money, better than his Oscar-winning performance last year) was just icing on the cake. And I wouldn’t rule out Colin Farrell, who started out his career in such promising fashion with films like Tigerlandbefore veering off course, having a similar turn. 

Meg James:

HBO has long been part of the glue that holds the TV channel bundles together. Distributors want HBO and Cinemax to remain exclusive to their premium packages — rather than being sold as a stand-alone product.

Bewkes might be positioning HBO for upcoming negotiations with cable and satellite TV operators. Several key contracts come up for renewal in the next few years, and Bewkes could use the threat of offering HBO as a stand-alone offering as leverage with distributors.

This is my concern — that while it seems like everything is headed in the right direction for HBO to break away from cable and offer a stand-alone service, that threat will likely just be used as the negotiating point when HBO starts to talk with the cable providers for a new deal in the coming months.

The reality right now remains that three-fourths of HBO’s revenues come from these deals. And Time Warner knows they now have leverage to get even more. For example, this oddity:

HBO doesn’t collect revenue generated by about 10% of domestic subscribers. Formulas created years ago to provide incentives to pay-TV companies to get more customers to sign up for HBO allow the distributors to keep the subscription fee if they reach undisclosed bench marks for recruitment.

Would love to know those benchmarks. Undoubtedly these kind of incentives are what lead to situations like this.

Jason Lynch:

HBO is bringing three dramas to a close over the next several months: True Blood, Boardwalk Empire and The Newsroom. “We think the right thing is to end with creative integrity so that the viewer and creator feels satisfied,” said Lombardo, who admitted that HBO made “a mistake” in canceling Deadwood after three seasons, before the story’s natural end, which angered viewers.

The cancellation of Deadwood was a major (rare) mistake for HBO. Here’s hoping they still do a movie to conclude the series one day…

I remain intrigued by how they’re going to handle the Game of Thrones situation. There’s no way the books are done before the television series is. Unless they decide to take a few years off, as they do with Curb Your Enthusiasm — a very different show, obviously. Or, if they do a movie to conclude the show as well…

It’s not the Iron Throne I see when I’m working on ‘The Winds of Winter.’ It’s not the Iron Throne I want my readers to see. The way the throne is described in the books … HUGE, hulking, black and twisted, with the steep iron stairs in front, the high seat from which the king looks DOWN on everyone in the court … my throne is a hunched beast looming over the throne room, ugly and assymetric … The HBO throne is none of those things.
George R. R. Martin, on one key difference between his books and the show.
I wish we had more episodes. I’d love to have 13 episodes. With 13 episodes, we could include smaller scenes that we had to cut, scenes that make the story deeper and richer.

George R. R. Martin, speaking to Dana Jennings about how his “A Song of Fire and Ice” series of novels compares to HBO’s Games of Thrones television show.

Given the massive ratings success HBO is seeing with Thrones, it seems insane that they wouldn’t okay more episodes if asked. Yes, the show is hugely expensive to produce but it’s now HBO’s most successful series — ever. Plus, ten episodes each season isn’t enough for me either.

James Hibberd

HBO has crowned a new ratings king. Fantasy hit Game of Thrones has officially surpassed mob drama The Sopranos to become the most-watched show in the premium cable network’s history, HBO confirmed for the first time Thursday.

With two episodes remaining in the fourth season, Thrones has an average gross audience of 18.4 million viewers across all platforms. That surpasses the previous record set by the 2002 peak season of The Sopranos, which had an average gross audience of 18.2 million viewers per episode. Last season of Thrones had an average gross audience of 14.4 million viewers per episode. The news comes as Thrones has set several recent ratings records for its own performance this season.

That was three weeks ago, I can only imagine what the ratings for the finale were (we should know in the next few days). 

Update: As expected, those ratings were massive. (Thanks @rjonesy)