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HBO Go Now Streaming to the TV

13 Feb, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel

HBO subscribers who use the HBO Go app can now stream content from their Apple device to the TV, HBO president Eric Kessler told a technology group.

Speaking Feb. 12 at the D: Dive into Media confab in Laguna Beach, Calif., Kessler said a new agreement with Apple’s AirPlay media platform now enables HBO subs for the first time to stream content onto a big-screen TV. Previously, HBO Go only afforded access to select portable media devices.

“People using Xbox [360] are actually watching 23 hours a month of HBO. And I think we’ll see something similar with AirPlay,” Kessler said.

That said, Time Warner-owned HBO has no plans to offer itself as a standalone service. Instead, it will remain a premium TV product bundled with cable, satellite and telecommunications video packages.

Kessler said HBO currently is subscribed by about a third of the 100 million U.S. cable households, which represents a significant growth potential. The COO also acknowledged that there exists a growing broadband market for a standalone subscription video-on-demand version of HBO. However, he said technology, content, churn and marketing costs involved launching a SVOD version of HBO remains prohibitive.

“That doesn’t mean that may not change,” Kessler said. “We need to be relevant.”

The COO said there are about 10 million HBO transactions a year that are currently handled by cable and satellite partners. Under a SVOD platform, those transactions would grow exponentially, requiring a requisite customer service.

“We don’t pay for those reps [now],” Kessler said. “We’re in the premium TV business. It’s about marketing and promotion.”

The executive said HBO has no plans to offer all episodes of proprietary programming to subscribers similar to what Netflix does with “House of Cards,” “Lilyhammer” and other episodic shows.

“If it works for [Netflix’s] subscribers then that’s great,” Kessler said. “Only about 6% of our viewers are [watching all episodes in one sitting].

He said subscribers who have never watched ‘Game of Thrones,’ will watch seasons one and two for a couple of weeks to catch up before season three starts. HBO recently offered viewers of the Golden Globe-winning series “Girls” the option to watch the following week’s episode after the current episode aired.

“A very small percentage of the audience actually [did] that,” Kessler said.

This should be good news for Netflix, as its CEO Reed Hastings has not been shy admitting that HBO and HBO Go remain coveted benchmarks for the SVOD pioneer.

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