This is not Marketing. This is HBO: Branding HBO with Transmedia Storytelling

Melanie Bourdaa


This article deals with the way HBO promotes its shows today using strategies of ‘transmedia storytelling’ (Jenkins 2006). The US pay-per view cable channel has a history of creating a specific promotional system around its programs. Its famous slogan ‘It’s Not TV. It’s HBO.’ accompanied the introduction of narrative complexity in shows like The Sopranos (HBO/Brillstein Entertainment Partner, 1999-2007) or The Wire (HBO/Blown Deadline Productions, 2002-8) for example. Transmedia Storytelling, as theorized by Henry Jenkins, is a way to extend stories across multiple media platforms in order to create a coherent storyworld, giving information on characters or insights on the plots and the narrative universe. This article analyses how HBO is developing strategies of transmedia storytelling. I will focus on two specific television shows, True Blood (HBO/Your Face Goes Here Entertainment, 2008- ) and Game of Thrones (HBO/Television 360/Grok! Television/Generator Entertainment/Bighead Littlehead, 2011- ), in order to understand how HBO managed to promote these shows and expand its brand in the American and international television landscape. I use a dual methodology, first presenting an analysis of the transmedia strategies related to the universes of the shows. Then I will draw on interviews with the creators of these strategies in order to understand how they are included in the promotion of HBO.

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