updated 07:50 am EDT, Mon August 4, 2014
Possible web TV expansion hints at future non-cable HBO service in US
HBO may be working on making its programming more available online, though outside of the United States. The channel is believed to be looking into expanding its existing Web TV service it has operated in Northern Europe since 2012 into new markets, as the Time Warner unit explores ways to increase its revenues without disturbing its existing US arrangements with pay-TV operators.
Sources of the Wall Street Journal claim HBO is looking at launching its service in current low-revenue areas which also have a suitable broadband infrastructure, with Japan and Turkey being prime candidates. A timeframe for launch is unknown, as the content producer is apparently only looking into a potential service launch at the moment.
If it does launch its Web TV service in any of these countries, it could have a number of benefits to HBO as a whole. Expanding internationally will increase its global subscriber figures and have customers paying the company directly rather than it receiving licensing royalties. It will also give HBO more expertise in Internet streaming, which could make its existing HBO Go app more resilient to high viewing numbers, and reopens the door to a possible HBO service in the United States without requiring users to subscribe to specific and expensive cable channel bundles.
Subscriber growth in the US alone has been slow for the broadcaster, with a research firm claiming just a 400,000-subscriber increase in the country between 2007 and 2013, with the current subscriber count hovering at 29.3 million. Current revenues for the channel in the US stem from cable distribution deals, with increases in revenues caused through a raising of prices, and though HBO has started to work on initiatives to boost subscriber revenues, such as Comcast providing basic channels, basic Internet, and HBO content for a relatively-low monthly cost, this is still a problem which may force HBO into looking for non-cable subscriber services.
An international HBO Go subscriber service would see HBO competing directly against other popular streaming services, including Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video. A few months ago, HBO signed a deal with Amazon to allow Prime subscribers access to a selection of HBO content, though this also restricted recent popular shows from appearing on the service until three years after they had been first broadcast, while shows including Sex and the City and Game of Thrones are not available due to streaming rights being tied up with syndication deals.