How ‘Silicon Valley’ Helped Reboot HBO’s Comedy Hopes

HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ wraps its first season run tonight and over its eight episodes has proven to be a big success … and one that the network can really use at the moment.

Jun 1, 2014 at 5:16PM

Hollywood producers like Aaron Sorkin, Kyle Killen, and Mike Judge all have dedicated followings, but that doesn't always translate to success unless you find the right network to support the project. For Judge and HBO (a subsidiary of Time Warner (NYSE:TWX)), Silicon Valley has been a big success. As the series prepares to wrap its first season tonight, it's important to recognize why it's been a big win for both sides.

Comedic timing


Credit: HBO

Many people think of HBO for its top-tier Emmy winning dramas. But the premium heavyweight also has had a lot of success with comedies ranging from the very beginning with The Larry Sanders Show to more recently with Veep.

The problem is that the network hasn't had as much luck in producing hits for that category for the past few years. In fact, if you look at HBO's recent new comic offerings there's nothing funny about it or the ratings the group has produced. Granted this is HBO and they operate on a subscriber business model so ratings don't apply to the same level. But you still want to program shows people will actually watch.

Silicon Valley though represented a giant shift in that paradigm for HBO and it came at just the right time. With the network so focused on dramas and the exiting trio of True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, and The Newsroom, it needed something big to pop organically on the comedy side. The show has been a breath of fresh air for HBO -- paired with the dominating Game of Thrones and Emmy darling Veep, the network's had it most appealing Sunday lineup in a long time.

Raw data

After bowing to 1.9 million viewers (HBO's best performing rookie comedy premiere since 2009's Hung), Valley suffered a noticeable second week swoon (among live viewing) only to see most of that audience return weeks later before balancing out. It also attracts more affluent viewers, many of who are in the tech industry in which the series is set.

One explanation for that spike could be HBO giving the show an early renewal after just a few episodes. While HBO is one of the better networks in terms of giving its shows a real chance to survive, this is still a culture of trigger-happy executives that has produced gun-shy viewers.


It's hard to gain audiences' trust no matter what your network's track record. What these numbers show though is that Valley could be a series that will bring HBO new subscribers and at a time where the network really needs them.

TV 'Space'


Credit: HBO

Silicon Valley could have easily joined the laundry list of flops that came before it. So why did it do so well? Some of the credit could go to having Game of Thrones as its lead-in, but a lot of it should also go to the genius of creator Mike Judge.

Best known for his work on MTV's Beavis & Butthead and Fox's King of the Hill, Judge's comic style has never really been able to translate to the big screen. While Office Space and Idiocracy are cult favorites, both under-performed at the box office and his most recent film Extract just bombed altogether. Still his fans are loyal and his return to the medium that made him famous was welcomed.

A programmer in his pre-Hollywood days, Judge drew upon that experience to craft the series about a group of friends working on a tech start-up, and as a result Valley's also been picking up props for its realism. While there will always be naysayers and people who believe TV can never truly nail the real-life aspect of any job or experience, Valley's gotten more right than it has wrong, according to many experts including Kurt Wagner at Mashable, who said it best when he wrote "for those in tech in the Bay Area, Silicon Valley doesn't just hit home — it is home."

It's also found a home with TV critics who have for the most part fallen in love with its well casted ensemble. Just the other week the Broadcast Television Journalists Association rewarded the series with three Critics Choice Award nominations and many are already suggesting it could even break into the Emmy race next month. In any case Valley is already a winner for HBO and that's something to celebrate.

Your cable company is scared, but you can get rich

Do you know how to profit off HBO an cable's current success? There's $2.2 trillion out there to be had. Currently, cable grabs a big piece of it. That won't last. And when cable falters, three companies are poised to benefit. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple. 


Brett Gold has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

©1995-2014 The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. | Privacy/Legal Information