HBO Max is “rooting for everybody Black.”
The team borrowed the line from one of HBO’s biggest stars, “Insecure” creator, writer, producer and actor Issa Rae, who went viral with that quip during an interview with Variety at the 2017 Emmys. It’s a tremendous one-liner, but the sentiment also accurately sums up the intent behind Scene in Black, which is to amplify Black voices.
Jackie Gagne, HBO Max and HBO’s SVP of multicultural marketing, detailed the development of the new initiative, which she describes as “our destination for the telling of stories from the Black perspective.”
“HBO has a really rich history of amplifying Black stories and talent, and this is an evolution or an extension of that,” Gagne tells Variety. “And it allows our team to really take our expertise to HBO Max and work to amplify the wonderful storytelling on the platform.”
With a breadth of Black-led award-winning shows like “Insecure,” “I May Destroy You,” “A Black Lady Sketch Show” and “The Wire,” plus “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “A Different World” via HBO Max, Gagne and the multicultural marketing team’s goal with Scene in Black is to celebrate the strides Black artists have made over time, while focusing on the future.
“For Scene in Black, we really see an opportunity to occupy the future,” Gagne says. “Not only will we highlight Black talent that’s in front of them behind the camera, on the platform, but we are also focused on highlighting the next generation of creators and creatives, and providing a platform for them to share their stories.”
And in crafting the identity of Scene in Black in particular, there was a real recognition of the power of Black Twitter. “Our work is always about meeting the audience where they are, and it’s particularly true that Black audiences are on social,” Gagne explains.
Scene in Black follows the brand’s other curated audience experiences, HBO Max’s Human by Orientation (which connects with the LGBTQIA+ audience) and HBO Max Pa’lante (which launched in March 2021 and focuses on Latino audiences).
“Both of those initiatives represent the evolution of the work that we’ve been doing for over a decade, creating these campaigns that authentically engaged with the multicultural viewers,” Gagne explains. “And what we found in those launches is that the audiences were very receptive, and very excited that we had these dedicated social destinations, to not only promote and support the stories, but also to start or to host conversation, and to really connect with them from a cultural perspective.”
All three audience experiences fall under HBO Max’s Our Stories to Tell platform, which connects audiences and talent/creatives with cultural programming at key moments and notable industry events, like the Sundance Film Festival.
But first, the team focused on curating Scene in Black’s presence on Twitter and Instagram with content about the shows and specials on their platform, as well as insight from the talent and creatives behind them.
Some of those social content franchises will include:
The Chapter That Changed You: Talent shares a meaningful film or TV show that has impacted their personal and professional career
Note to Creatives Who Look Like Me: Talent shares 2-3 things they would tell their younger selves
Hot Takes: Talent gives their “hot take” opinion on topics that are typically reserved for the group chat
The initiative is set to roll out in three phases. After the social media launch, Scene in Black will celebrate its inaugural in-person event tied to the launch of the final season of “Insecure” in October. The next phase will be integrating Scene in Black into the HBO Max platform and representing the initiative as a hub within the product.
In support of the new initiative, Rae tells Variety, “HBO has served as a home for our ‘Insecure’ and our ‘A Black Lady Sketch Show’ family and provided a space for me to produce the stories that I’ve longed to see.”
“It’s bittersweet that we’re at the end of ‘Insecure,’” she continues. “But with all the amazing content coming to HBO Max, I feel more confident knowing that Scene in Black can serve as a home and space for people who look like me.”
Variety's Angelique Jackson contributed to this post.