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HBO will be the center of a tell-all oral history

Author James Andrew Miller, who has done warts-and-all books about Saturday Night Live and ESPN, is working on his next project.

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Helen Sloan/HBO
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

HBO is one of the most significant cultural companies of our time. It’s the network that brought you The Sopranos, Sex in the City, and Game of Thrones, and it’s the centerpiece of AT&T’s $85 billion plan to become an entertainment giant.

And now it’s going to be a book.

Journalist James Andrew Miller, who specializes in big, all-encompassing oral histories of giant culture-makers like Saturday Night Live and ESPN, has started working on an oral history of HBO, according to people familiar with his plans. Miller has been telling sources he intends to cover the network from its founding in 1972, up through its current incarnation as the key part of AT&T’s strategy to take on Apple, Amazon, and Netflix.

Miller’s books are sprawling, comprehensive affairs that give outsiders a rare look at how important companies are founded and managed, in the words of the people who founded and managed them. And, crucially, they are also important to industry insiders, who use the books to do some score-settling and gossiping. The HBO story, which is simultaneously a business story and a cultural story, would be a ripe target in any era, but it’s particularly useful now, as people in and outside of the company worry about its future under AT&T.

Miller typically interviews hundreds of people for these books. A person who has talked to Miller about his new project says the author has already talked to significant players in HBO’s history, including former HBO heads Jeff Bewkes, Chris Albrecht, and Richard Plepler, as well as David Simon, who created HBO’s ground-breaking series The Wire.

It will be interesting to see if AT&T, which has been sensitive about stories detailing the departure of Plepler and other HBO executives following the company’s acquisition of HBO, will let its current employees talk to Miller.

Miller’s last book — a history of Hollywood talent agency CAA, published in 2016 — was for HarperCollins. This one will be for Henry Holt, which doesn’t have a publication date, per Holt rep Patricia Eisemann. Miller declined to comment.