HBO to Launch Standalone Online Video Service in the US

/ Oct 15, 2014


And here we go: HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler has confirmed that HBO will launch a “standalone, over-the-top” HBO service in the US in 2015.

The announcement was made early Wednesday during Time Warner’s “Investor Day” presentation. “All in, there are 80 million homes that do not have HBO and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them,” Plepler said. “That 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.”

Plepler said HBO will work with its current partners (cable and satellite TV companies) as well as “explore models” with new partners in order to bring HBO to the masses.

This is certainly a huge moment — for HBO, Time Warner, the pay-TV industry, and the burgeoning online video space. But before we get to that, a few caveats:

Plepler did not specify how this HBO online video service would look like. In order to keep its current TV partners happy, the untethered version of HBO could “window” content — offering programming a few days, weeks, or months after it airs on the TV network.

HBO also has an exclusive library deal with Amazon in the US for many of its classic shows. That means Amazon Prime Instant Video is the only SVOD player in the US with access to full seasons of “The Sopranos,” “Six Feet Under,” “The Wire,” and more. The deal also covers more recent fare like “Girls,” “The Newsroom,” and “Veep,” which will show up on Amazon Prime approximately three years after airing on the network. (Notably missing under this pact: “Game of Thrones,” which also happens to be one of the most pirated shows on the web.) It’s not clear how this would affect HBO’s online-only service, especially considering these shows are also available on HBO Go in the US.

And on top of all of that, building a strong over-the-top service isn’t cheap. Remember HBO Go’s troubles with the “True Detective” season one finale? HBO will need a strong tech, marketing, and yes billing infrastructure to make everything work seamlessly. To accomplish this, there’s speculation that HBO could partner with online companies like Amazon, or maybe even internet-service providers (if their TV counterparts aren’t too pissed off).

With that said, it’s clear this was where HBO was headed, maybe as far back as when it first decided to unhook HBO Go for the Nordic region. At the time, and many times since, the company said the economics simply didn’t work for HBO to offer a standalone service in the US.

HBO’s TV partners provide a lot of support in terms of marketing, billing, and distribution — so what changed?

Plepler mentioned how HBO’s current deals with companies like Comcast ensures that distributors keep all subscription revenue after meeting certain goals. “There are hundreds of millions of dollars that our partners aren’t sharing with us,” said Plepler during his presentation.

That said, this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of HBO’s current place within the TV ecosystem. Most of Plepler’s presentation actually focused on HBO’s plans to build its traditional business, which helped bring in $4.9 billion in revenue for the company last year.

Simply, HBO wants better terms, and going over-the-top and direct might be the way to accomplish that.

TV distributors might not be happy with HBO’s decision right now. But as many of them also offer broadband access, the premium network could work with them to reach the 10 million US homes that Plepler said are broadband-only. It would certainly keep HBO “in the family.”

It remains to be seen how cable and satellite companies respond to HBO’s announcement.

Maybe even more interesting: the response from Netflix, which hasn’t been shy about its desire to “become” a digital HBO.

But until then, yes, some version of HBO is coming online in 2015.

This article has been updated to include more coverage of HBO’s announcement.

Tags: , , , ,

  • This is a big deal. Once HBO does it, the rest of the major networks will follow suit in the same way, guaranteed. Within a short while, the cable companies will become simple ISPs.

  • Karl House

    Game changer. ESPN is probably not far behind.


Netflix Orders ‘G.L.O.W.’ Women’s Wrestling...

CES Virtual Reality

Jaunt VR Goes to China with Shanghai Media Group and China Media...

Amazon Japan

Amazon Japan Unveils Prime Video Originals Slate

Matt “Hoss” Hosseinzadeh

The Weird Parkour ‘n’ Pick-Up World of the MattHoss,...

Industry Tickets Selling Fast!
Click above to lock in your registration for VidCon 2015!
Algorhythm New Form Digital Above Average Craig Benzine WheezyWaiter

Here’s What Taking an “Above Average” Approach...


Weekly Streaming Video Release Schedule – Updated 5.27.16

Crave Logo

Social App Platform Crave Partners with Nordic MCN Splay Networks


Billboard Music Awards: How Publishers Drive Digital Video...

Shout Factory

Shout! Factory in the Family Way with ‘Boxcar...

Vitaly Zdorovetskiy From Tresspassing to Terrorism YouTube Pranks Backfiring with Busts

From Tresspassing to Terrorism: YouTube Pranks Backfiring with Busts

Hulu Logo

Hulu and ITV Go Straight to Series with ‘Harlots’


Amazon’s New Pilot Season Gets Bookish with F. Scott...


Is “Wallet Share” for Subscription Streaming...

Victorious launches mobile apps with The Young Turks, Ryan Higa

Victorious Raises $25 Million But How ‘Victorious’...

Bad Internet CollegeHumor YouTube Red

CollegeHumor Finds Laughs in Dystopia with YouTube Red’s...

Bryce Clemmer Digital Video Measurement

Digital Video Measurement is Imperfect. So What?


Inside go90’s Content Strategy Part 2 — Sports and...


Shows on go90 – Teen Drama, Comedy, Gaming

StyleHaul Logo

Shows on go90 – Talk Show, Fashion/Beauty, Reality Series


Inside go90’s Video Strategy — A Product Evolution...

Lloyd Ahlquist EpicLLOYD Epic Studios

EpicLLOYD’s Kinda Epic Journey from Pitch to Production...


GoPro and Red Bull Tighten Bond with Global Deal – Does...


In-House Content Studios: Same Name, Different Capabilities

Snapchat Article Header

Snapchat Is Getting 10 Billion Video Views A Day. Now What?


PrankVsPrank’s Jesse Wellens, Jeana Smith Hit Pause On...

Get The Look  Metallic Chic Eye Makeup by Maybelline branded content

Do This Yourself: Why Branded DIY Videos Are Still a Big Opportunity

Adam Wescott Select Management Group Select Next

Building Better Opportunities for Digital Influencers with...

Screening Room

Weekly Streaming Video Release Schedule

oculus faux leak

Let’s get Real about VR — the Content & Distribution...


Supergravity Pictures, Evan Weiss Form Talent Management Brand...


All Def Digital Teams With SeeSo For Original Content Deal


Kandee Johnson, MyLifeAsEva To Talk Fashion, Beauty In...

NewFronts Image 2015

Newfronts 2016 Programming Cheat Sheet


A Year Later… How The Pet Collective Has Blown Up With...


Live Nation Acquires INDMUSIC

Google Daydream VR

Google Bringing VR Platform Daydream to New Android Operating System

Cinedigm Logo

Cinedigm Buying Content for Dove Channel OTT Service

Instant Time INc.

Will Time Inc.’s Branded ‘New Famous’ Platform...

NBA Playmakers

Are the NBA and BroadbandTV Pulling a Tom Sawyer with New...

cutting the cord

Tearing Down the Wall – Why Television May Just Kill the...