HBO’s Cost of Killing ‘Luck’: $35 Million

Horse-racing scene from HBO's "Luck." Inset: Creator David Milch (Photos: HBO)

HBO’s cancellation of the beleagured horseracing drama “Luck” cost the network $35 million, according to an earnings report released by Time Warner Wednesday.

Time Warner, which owns the premium cable provider, said it suffered the “impairment” because of the series’ cancellation in its first season following the death of three horses.

The show had already started production on its second season, and most of the costs were attached to shutting down production during that unaired season, resulting in the $35 million writedown, HBO said.

The series, executive produced by David Milch and Michael Mann and starring Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, debuted to high expectations. But it earned disappointing ratings and quickly became embroiled in questions about the horse deaths during filming. HBO’s decision to cancel the show in March helped contain the scandal and protect a reputation the network has spent decades building.

Overall, Time Warner reported an 11 percent drop in profits for the first quarter, falling to $583 million compared to $653 million in the same quarter last year. But it beat analysts’ expectations.

Network revenues for HBO and the Turner stations were up 3 percent to $3.6 billion, with increases of 5 percent in HBO subscription revenues, primarily because of higher domestic rates, the report said.

It also said that HBO’s “Game of Thrones” has been the most-watched drama on cable for the first four weeks of its second season, averaging a gross audience of 11.1 million viewers per episode — a 20 percent increase over last season.

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