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HBO Programing Going 'Prime'

23 Apr, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Exclusive license deal marks the first time HBO content is available on a subscription streaming service

In a first, HBO April 23 announced it has signed a license agreement with Amazon, affording the latter’s Prime Instant Video subscribers access to catalog programing such as “The Sopranos,” “Six Feet Under,” “The Wire,” “Big Love,” “Deadwood,” “Eastbound & Down,” “Family Tree,” “Enlightened,” “Treme,” in addition to early seasons of “Boardwalk Empire” and “True Blood,” and miniseries “Band of Brothers” and “John Adams,” among others.

Current HBO episodic programming won’t be available on Prime Instant Video until three years after initial broadcast.

The agreement, which begins May 21, marks the first time HBO has licensed its content to a subscription streaming service, which does not require an HBO subscription. The venerable pay-TV operator heretofore has shunned licensing content to SVOD, preferring to distribute via its proprietary HBO Go app. HBO Go will become available on Fire TV, Amazon’s new streaming media player bowing later this year.

“HBO has produced some of the most groundbreaking, beloved and award-winning shows in television history, with more than 115 Emmys among the assortment of shows coming to Prime members next month,” Brad Beale, director of content acquisition for Amazon, said in a statement. “HBO original content is some of the most-popular across Amazon Instant Video—our customers love watching these shows.”

Charles Schreger, president of programming sales at HBO, said the SVOD deal will help grow HBO’s subscriber base, which tops 114 million globally.

“Amazon has built a wonderful service — we are excited to have our programming made available to their vast customer,” Schreger said.

The deal also represents a shot across the bow of Netflix’s burgeoning SVOD empire. Although HBO and Netflix share a mutual admiration, with CEO Reed Hastings often characterizing HBO Go as an industry benchmark, the two companies haven’t refrained from taking shots.

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, who used to be president of HBO, has often touted the pay-TV service’s superior subscriber base, global reach and programming compared with Netflix.

Hasting, in a January fiscal webcast, referred to HBO Go as Netflix’s “bitch.”

Indeed, news of HBO’s SVOD deal with Amazon sent Netflix shares down 2.5% in early trading.

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