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CEO: HBO Ready to Go Direct to Consumer if Necessary

17 Jan, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

HBO CEO Richard Plepler

Premium channel’s Richard Plepler cautions launching HBO Go app direct to consumers depends on market conditions within the pay TV industry

HBO’s TV Everywhere platform, HBO Go, remains the industry benchmark for authenticated viewers to access select live and on-demand (1,900 hours of library) content, an accolade oft repeated by competitor Netflix and its co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings in analyst calls.

As a result, industry speculation that HBO might launch the platform as an over-the-top service direct to consumers remains the $1 million question.

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, a former boss of HBO, has remained coy to the suggestion — a strategy underscored by HBO’s 125 million worldwide subscribers (largely via third-party bundled MVPDs), and the fact Netflix hasn’t been shy putting HBO on a pedestal it wishes to inhabit.

Late last year, Bewkes said efforts were being made to test HBO Go (without a requisite HBO subscription) as part of a low-cost bundled broadband package including local TV channels through Comcast.

During BuzzFeed’s inaugural “Brews” media event Jan. 17 in New York, current HBO CEO Richard Plepler was again asked what it would take for HBO Go to go direct to consumer.

"If the market changes, we are not going to be caught without the ability to pivot," Plepler said.

Plepler said HBO currently has $4 billion worth of distribution partnerships — retransmission agreements he said the premium channel does not want to jeopardize, and, in fact,  is continually seeking to improve through increased theatrical releases, original programming and mobility.

“HBO Go is a better and better product,” he said. “If the model changes and it makes sense down the road [to go direct to consumer], we will have the ability to do what we need to do. But right now, this [bundled subscription] is the model that makes sense for us.”

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