HBO, Discovery Break News at Winter Critics’ Tour

PASADENA, Calif. — HBO saved its announcement of return dates for Game of Thrones and other series for the annual Television Critics Association Winter Tour here, while Discovery Communications disclosed a new identity for its Military Channel.

Those programmers helped create a newsy start to the three-and-a-half-day conference, in which more than 33 networks touted original series and movies to more than 200 TV critics.

Discovery’s reformatting of 62 million-subscriber diginet Military Channel into American Heroes Channel will begin on March 3. On tap will be 17 new series and specials, with four original series and specials launching in the first week. First up, at 10 p.m. on March 3, is Against the Odds, a six-part series that will tell stories of war veterans who survived seemingly impossible ordeals. Kevin Bennett, who was general manager of Military Channel and Investigation Discovery, will serve in the same capacity for AHC.

HBO said top-rated series Game of Thrones will return for its fourth season on April 6. The same night will also see the third-season premiere of comedy series Veep.

The programmer also said it greenlit a fourth season of Girls, which begins filming later this year. The third season debuted on Sunday (Jan. 12).

Additionally, HBO said Boardwalk Empire will end with its fifth season, which debuts this fall.

Other news from the early stages of TCA:

OWN said it ordered its fourth series from Tyler Perry, Single Moms Club, to premiere this fall.

Comedy Central picked up Big Time in Hollywood, FL from Ben Stiller’s Red Hour and the animated Moonbeam City, produced by Rob Lowe.

BET drew 19 NAACP Image Awards nominations to lead all cable and broadcast TV networks, the civilrights organization and TV One announced Wednesday (Jan. 8). TV One will televise live the Feb. 22 NAACP Image Awards, which celebrate the accomplishments of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature and film. CBS drew 16 nominations, while ABC and HBO garnered 15 and 13 nominations each, respectively.

Starz will look to offer 65 to 75 hours of original programming by 2015, putting the pay TV service on the same field as competitors HBO and Showtime. CEO Chris Albrecht, speaking Friday (Jan. 10) at Starz’s Winter TCA press tour session, said the network will feature four scripted series in 2014, beginning with the Jan. 25 debut of drama Black Sails.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.