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For HBO, Comedy Is Becoming a Competitive Advantage

Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Vice President Selina Meyer in the hit HBO comedy Veep.

Now that big-name dramas True Blood and Boardwalk Empire are ending, Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) HBO subsidiary is making bigger bets on comedy programming. Fool contributor Tim Beyers explains the implications in the following video.

Specifically, the cable network has renewed Silicon Valley for a second season and Veep for a fourth. HBO's comedy programming lineup is also due to expand, adding Mark Duplass' Togetherness later this year and then The Brink and Ballers for 2015.

Tim says the pickups come at a good time. Silicon Valley kicked off with 1.98 million viewers and has enjoyed reaccelerating viewership in recent episodes. Veep is an Emmy winner that regularly attracts about 1 million viewers. Good numbers in TV's niche programming era, especially for a pay-TV network.

And yet most of HBO's rivals are spending resources to find and produce epic dramas (e.g., House of Cards) or heavy-handed genre programming (e.g., The Walking Dead). Comedy has become an afterthought for too many of the Hollywood majors.

At HBO, comedy helps to set the network apart. Curb Your Enthusiasm  aired for eight successful seasons and could get a ninth. The dark comedy Girls will return for a fourth season next year while Looking and Getting On are each due for a second season.

Mix in Togetherness, The Brink, and Ballers and it's becoming clear that if HBO ever takes a try at offering straight-up HBO GO subscriptions -- something subscribers have been clamoring for a while now -- effective, profitable comedy programming is going to be a big part of the mix.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Do you like HBO's comedy programming strategy? Do you expect it to help Warner drive profits at HBO? Please watch the video to get the full story and then leave a comment to let us know your take, including whether you would buy, sell, or short Time Warner stock at current prices.

Laugh all the way to the bank
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Tim Beyers

Tim Beyers first began writing for the Fool in 2003. Today, he's an analyst for Motley Fool Rule Breakers and Motley Fool Supernova. At, he covers disruptive ideas in technology and entertainment, though you'll most often find him writing and talking about the business of comics. Find him online at or send email to For more insights, follow Tim on Google+ and Twitter.

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