UPDATE: HBO has announced it will begin selling online subscription services sometime in the next year. CEO Richard Plepler says streaming “is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped. It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO.”
HBO, with its hit shows like “True Detective” and “Game of Thrones,” made $1.8 billion in operating profits in 2013. But it made that money from cable subscribers — not Internet viewers.
There is no stand-alone Internet subscription to watch new episodes of HBO’s shows. CEO Jeff Bewkes of Time Warner, which owns HBO, recently said directly selling online streaming access, and competing more directly with Netflix and Amazon, was “becoming more viable, more interesting.”
HBO might seem to have a lot of negotiating clout in this battle, because its content is very desirable and, as the cliché goes on the Internet, content is king.
“That’s the gambit, right,” says Dan Porter, head of digital at William Morris Endeavor. “The gambit is that content is king and while you might alienate the cable people you have the leverage. You could certainly say that that is true for professional sports.”
Porter believes the NFL can afford to sell access to its games online, because the cable industry can’t survive without it.
“I don’t know if HBO is there,” he says. HBO also isn’t an independent company. “It’s part of Time Warner,” says IDC analyst Greg Ireland. “Time Warner has other pay TV channel properties.”
Those channels may be harder to sell when they don’t come with an exclusive pass to the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.
Some numbers behind HBO:
Average number of same-night viewers of Game of Thrones’ last season.
Consecutive years in which HBO has won more primetime Emmys than any other network.
Operating profits for HBO in 2013.
HBO revenue growth in 2013.
Netflix revenue growth in 2013.
HBO subscriber growth over the last year.
Netflix subscriber growth over the last year.
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