Though Johnson dodged the question — he said only that there's "always room for improvement" – his boss, HBO programming president Michael Lombardo, quickly went on the defense: "When you said it, I thought, 'What's Survivor's Remorse?" Lombardo said from stage.
"Some critics loved Ballers, some didn’t," he continued, but emphasized Ballers' impressive viewership — the show is averaging 9 million viewers, making it the network's highest rated comedy in more than a half a decade. "We make this for the consumer and I really feel a vote confidence from them."
Lombardo went on to call the release "an odd marketing tactic" by Starz, which is led by former HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrect. Albrecht, who led the network during the Sex and the City and The Sopranos era, abruptly exited in 2007. He has been president and CEO of Starz since 2010.
"I don’t think we need to be in a slap down with Survivor's Remorse or any show," Lombardo kept going. "I thinkBallers has started its own ascendency and path and it will continue, as every great show does, to get richer and deeper and better."
When asked for comment on Lombardo's remarks, a Starz spokesperson told THR, "We would never take a swipe at another programmer. We will leave that to the critics."