HBO brings back Axios show for a second season


Axios, the online news organization, is obsessed with brevity — except when it comes to producing television shows with HBO.

Axios and HBO on Tuesday plan to announce a second-season pickup to their half-hour documentary-news show, “Axios.” HBO has ordered eight new episodes (along with four short specials) — double the number produced in its inaugural season, which featured four installments in a November trial run.

The program is part of a growing TV trend of “docu-news” series, which have proliferated amid the public’s fascination with politics and President Trump. Last fall, “Axios” made waves with its controversial interview with Trump, who said he didn’t need Congress to change laws recognizing that people born in America are U.S. citizens. The first season also featured newsmaker interviews with Tesla founder Elon Musk and Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook.


The second-season pickup is a big endorsement for Axios, which exploded onto the scene two years ago with exclusive and ultra-short dispatches that seek to zero in on the important elements of each story, under a ubiquitous heading: “Why it Matters.” The second-season pickup will allow Axios to expand at a time when other pioneering online media companies, including BuzzFeed, Vox Media, Huffington Post and Vice Media, have been purging staff.

Financial terms of the Axios-HBO partnership were not disclosed.

“We don’t look at this as a make-or-break deal on the revenue side of our company, although it is a good deal for us,” Jim VandeHei, co-founder and chief executive of Axios, said in an interview. “It’s an opportunity to showcase our journalism, and our world view, and how we think these big topics are interacting to change key parts of humanity in real time.”

Four new episodes will be televised in the spring and four in the fall.

Unlike general interest publications, Virginia-based Axios specializes in a few key coverage areas, including technology, science, politics, media and business — and the intersection of these disciplines. The site’s founders, VandeHei, Mike Allen and Roy Schwartz, molded Politico, which launched in 2007 and became a force in political news. The trio moved over to launch Axios in late 2016. It now cranks out 18 newsletters and last summer launched a business-themed podcast.

“We try to drive the conversation and make people make sure that they are informed,” said Evan Ryan, Axios’ executive vice president. “We do that with our newsletters and our podcast and so we are really happy to partner and do this with HBO as well.”

Axios boasts 1.3 million subscribers for its newsletters. The organization, which has about 150 employees, said it broke even last year with $25 million in revenue.

The relationship with the WarnerMedia channel began because HBO Chairman Richard Plepler was a fan of Axios’ news format and its leaders. HBO has partnered with several other news organizations, including Vice News and Pod Save America. Its “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” has become particularly popular.


“We share a philosophy with HBO that the world is just changing faster than most people can keep up with, and how can we help viewers better navigate the collision — the collision of tech and politics and media and science,” VandeHei said. “The show, at its best, does illuminate those complexities in a way that people understand and hopefully, over time, make better decisions.”

The show is produced and directed by Emmy winner Matthew O’Neill (HBO’s “Baghdad ER” and “China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province”) and Perri Peltz (HBO’s “Warning: This Drug May Kill You” and “Remembering the Artist Robert De Niro, Sr.”).

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT