Those online trolls who attack TV critics? They were from HBO.

Those online trolls who attack TV critics?  They were from HBO.

Casey Bloys, chairman of HBO, enjoys a reputation in the entertainment industry as an efficient programmer and laid-back executive who stays above the fray.

All of this came to light during a press conference on Thursday, addressing his role at the center of a pretty striking media storm.

Mr. Bloys admitted his involvement in an attempt to create fake Twitter accounts to respond to television critics who had unfavorable opinions of HBO programs. And yes, he said, it was “a very, very stupid idea to express my frustration.”

The comments, made during an event focused on the channel’s upcoming shows, came a day after Rolling Stone reported on Mr. Bloys’ efforts to fend off criticism on Twitter. The article attracted the attention of much of the entertainment industry, with several rival executives privately wondering how the HBO executive could be so thin-skinned. New York Magazine described it as a “mini-scandal” that “may be the funniest thing to happen in media in years.”

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

“Who can go on a mission,” Mr. Bloys wrote to his colleague, according to the report. He asked to find a “mole” who would be “at a distance” from HBO executives. “We just need a coincidence to make the point and make her feel bad,” he wrote, referring to one critic.

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

Rolling Stone came across the text messages as it reported 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 the messages to critics – as well as anonymous comments on entertainment trade publication Deadline – were dated from June 2020 to April 2021.

“Think about 2020 and 2021, I work from home and spend an unhealthy amount of time scrolling through Twitter,” Mr Bloys said on Thursday.

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

Executives at HBO, like other networks specializing in prestige television, strongly view critical response as a metric in deciding whether a show will be renewed or not. The network has consistently been on critics’ favorite lists and has been a dominant player at televised awards shows.

“I want people to like them,” Mr. Bloys said Thursday, referring to the network’s offerings. “I want you to love them all. “What you think of the shows is very important to me.”

Mr Bloys then suggested he had abandoned the tactic of fake Twitter accounts and instead addressed critics directly via the direct message button.

“As many of you know, I have made progress over the past two years toward using DMs,” Mr. Bloys said. “So now when I disagree with something in a review, or I disagree with something I see, I send a message to many of you, and many of you are kind enough to dialogue with me in both directions. And I think that’s probably a much healthier way to go.

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David B.Otero

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