Don’t hold your breath for HBO Go stand-alone service

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There’s little chance that HBO will offer its content online to non-TV subscribers in the U.S. any time soon.

Home Box Office Chief Executive Officer Richard Plepler, in remarks at Nomura’s Media & Telecommunications Summit in New York on Thursday, said the company is focused on getting more U.S. households to subscribe rather than letting people pay to watch its content online without buying a satellite or cable TV package.

“For right now, we have the right model for our business,” he said. “There are 70 million homes in the U.S. that don’t have HBO. We think there’s a lot of opportunity in that 70 million.”


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Non-subscribing fans of HBO shows such as “Game of Thrones” and “Girls” have been clamoring for a way to keep up with the shows without paying for other channels. HBO Go is available on the web and on mobile devices, but only available to viewers who already have subscriptions to a big pay-TV service.

“For us, exclusivity is all,” Plepler said. “HBO Go, which has our entire library, is something we look to monetize more going forward.”

Currently, viewers in Nordic countries are the only ones in the world who have the option to watch HBO Go without having to buy a broader pay-TV package.

Plepler’s remarks echo recent comments by Jeff Bewkes, chief executive officer of HBO parent Time Warner. He downplayed the idea that HBO would offer its programming through broadband alone. “We don’t think it makes sense,” Bewkes said in an earnings call.

Plepler said the company’s tactic in the Nordic region is succeeding, but that every market is different and the stand-alone service may not work elsewhere. Still, he said, the company is evaluating what services will work in which markets.


“It’s very early days, but it’s going very well,” he said. “It’s a classic example of being ambidextrous.”


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Twitter: @rfaughnder