Wondering when HBO would finally ditch cable and start competing directly with Netflix? Well, wonder no more.
Today HBO chief exec Richard Plepler told Time Warner investors that the premium cable channel is planning to launch a standalone web-based video subscription service in 2015. That means HBO’s “HBO Go” streaming service may finally be available to people who don’t have a cable or satellite TV subscription to HBO, which is currently the only (legal) way you can access the online service in the U.S.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
HBO said it will work with its current partners to bring the standalone HBO web subscription service to consumers. It also said it plans to “explore models with new partners” but didn’t offer many other details.
So what motivated this sudden change of heart? (After all, HBO enjoys very lucrative partnerships with its cable and satellite television providers.) My guess is this is the result of growing competition from Netflix combined with pressure to prove that Time Warner has a bright future ahead of it with its HBO plans.
Netflix is currently the largest pure streaming video subscription service in the country, and it overtook HBO in terms of subscriber revenue ($1.15 billion compared to HBO’s $1.14 billion) last quarter, as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings gleefully announced back in August. So Time Warner shareholders are definitely aware that HBO is seeing a nice dose of competition.
On top of that, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes is having to prove that his company made the right decision by declining a very lucrative buyout offer from News Corp.’s Rupert Murdock earlier this year.
What’s funny is that Time Warner’s decision to offer a standalone HBO service probably didn’t have much to do with piracy, despite hit show Game of Thrones consistently being the most pirated TV series in the world.