HBO Launching Branding Primer18 Sep, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel
The premium channel acknowledges it’s not in millions of pay-TV homes. It wants to change that
HBO may be synonymous with original programing such as “Game of Thrones,” “True Blood,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “The Leftovers,” “Girls” and, years ago, “The Sopranos,” among others. But to about 70 million pay-TV homes in the United States, the premium channel pioneer doesn’t exist. A voluntary decision predicated on cost and less-expensive programing alternatives. Parent Time Warner wants to change that.
Beginning in the fourth quarter, HBO will embark on an aggressive marketing campaign, a multimedia PSA designed to highlight what the network brings to an increasingly crowded home entertainment landscape.
“We think a lot of folks don’t really understand HBO. What does it include, everything from theatricals to HBO Go to original programming,” Time Warner CFO Howard Averill told an investor group Sept. 17 in Los Angeles describing the campaign. “It could really help.”
With rival Netflix surpassing HBO in domestic subs and CEO Reed Hastings taking shots at the network during fiscal calls, Time Warner apparently feels the time is right to fight back.
“We think there’s incredible growth opportunities in subs at HBO. There are millions pay-TV households that don’t subscribe to HBO. We think that is the lower hanging fruit,” Averill said.
HBO grew its subscriber base by 2 million in 2013 — the largest sub growth in 17 years.
Separately, the CFO said there were no plans HBO was about to market TV Everywhere app HBO Go direct to consumers. But that could change. The app enables authenticated users to access live and on-demand HBO programming on portable devices.
“We want to make sure HBO Go is positioned that should the ecosystem change or evolve, we can be there when that happens,” Averill said.
At the same time, distributors are creating smaller bundled channel offerings at lower prices delivered over the Internet, which Averill characterized as a growth opportunity.
“It makes HBO, in effect, cheaper. It allows HBO to attack an entirely new market within the existing ecosystem,” he said, adding that the Q4 marketing campaign would help deliver the message.
“We want to make sure people fully understand that,” Averill said.