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HBO: No Netflix Partnership

25 Jul, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

HBO July 25 quashed scuttlebutt the Time Warner-owned premium TV channel had entered into or was thinking of establishing a partnership with Netflix.

The prospect of such odd bedfellows surfaced during Netflix’s second-quarter shareholder letter and follow-up call with analysts when CEO Reed Hastings opined about the possibility the subscription video-on-demand pioneer could “find opportunities to work” together with HBO.

Hastings has made no secret his admiration for HBO’s original programming or HBO Go, the premium channel’s TV Everywhere platform that allows authenticated subscribers 24/7 access to new and repurposed shows, including “True Blood,” “Game of Thrones,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “The Sopranos” and “Sex in the City,” among others highly coveted by Netflix subscribers.

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes (who formerly headed HBO) has been equally forthright with the mindset that SVOD (notably Netflix) is a low-margin direct competitor to premium TV channels and multichannel video distributors.

The prospect for any kind of working relationship appeared DOA earlier this year after Warner Home Video reportedly refused to offer Blu-ray Disc and DVD releases of “True Blood” to Netflix at the same wholesale price presented to other retail channels.

Interestingly, HBO shows on disc remain one of Netflix’s most popular physical rentals, according to CFO David Wells — a reality the executive said has contributed to longer-than-expected shipment delays for subscribers.

Regardless, when pressed for additional details during the call, Hastings said he wasn’t sure what a possible relationship with HBO would entail.

“My point is that we’re just another network, and that when you have multiple networks, they often find ways of working together,” Hastings said. “So it’s a general point that it’s not a zero-sum game between HBO and Netflix. And that, in fact, there may be ways of working together. But there's nothing particularly pressing.”

However fantastical Hastings envisions a working relationship with HBO could be, the premium channel reacted quickly to douse the dream. 

“We are not in discussions and have no plans to work with Netflix,” HBO spokesman Jeff Cusson told Reuters.

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