Are those online trolls attacking TV critics? They were from HBO.

Are those online trolls attacking TV critics?  They were from HBO.

Casey Bloys, president of HBO, has a reputation in the entertainment industry as an effective programmer and a calm executive who stays out of the fray.

All of which made his appearance at a news conference Thursday, addressing his role at the center of a media storm, quite eye-catching.

Bloys acknowledged his involvement in an effort to create fake Twitter accounts to respond to television critics who had unfavorable opinions of HBO shows. And yes, she said, it was “a very, very stupid idea to vent my frustration.”

The comments, made at an event focused on the network’s upcoming shows, came a day after rolling stone reported about Mr. Bloys’ efforts to push back against critics on Twitter. The article caught the attention of much of the entertainment industry, and several rival executives privately mused about how the HBO executive could be so sensitive. New York Magazine described it as a “mini-scandal” that “is perhaps the funniest thing to happen in the media in years.”

In its article, Rolling Stone said Bloys and Kathleen McCaffrey, another HBO executive, began discussing the Twitter plan starting in June 2020 (Twitter has since been renamed X).

“Who can go on a mission?” Bloys wrote to his colleague, according to the report. He asked to find a “mole” who was “at arm’s length” from HBO executives. “We just need a random character to make the point and make her feel bad,” she wrote, referring to one critic.

A former HBO employee created a fake Twitter profile and began responding to criticism, according to the article.

Rolling Stone found the text messages while reporting on a wrongful termination lawsuit by a former employee, Sully Temori, who is suing the network along with two top executives and several producers of the now-canceled show “The Idol,” where he worked.

Rolling Stone reported that posts to critics, as well as anonymous comments on entertainment publication Deadline, were dated between June 2020 and April 2021.

“Think about 2020 and 2021: I’m at home working from home and spending an unhealthy amount of time scrolling through Twitter,” Bloys said Thursday.

“I apologize to the people who were mentioned in the leaked emails and text messages,” he continued. “Obviously, no one wants to be part of a story they had nothing to do with.”

HBO executives, like other networks that specialize in prestige television, largely consider critical response as a metric for deciding whether or not a show is renewed. The network has historically populated critics’ favorites lists and been a dominant player at television awards shows.

“I want people to love them,” Bloys said Thursday, referring to the network’s offerings. “I want all of you to love them. “It is very important to me what you all think of the programs.”

Bloys then suggested that he had left the fake Twitter account tactic behind and reached out to critics directly via the direct message button.

“As many of you know, in recent years I have made progress in using DM,” Mr. Bloys said. “So now, when I disagree with something in a review, or I disagree with something I see, I text a lot of you, and a lot of you are kind enough to interact with me on a one-way basis. and return. And I think that’s probably a much healthier way to approach this.”

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John C. Johnson

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