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HBO Using Blu-ray to Sample Pay-TV Shows

3 Feb, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Connected Blu-ray players enable users to watch HBO, Cinemax programing without a subscription

Bonus features and trailers are requisite add-ons with packaged media. Now HBO is using Blu-ray Disc to market its original programming, in addition to Cinemax shows, with more than sneak peeks.

With about 45 million domestic subscribers, HBO and subsidiary Cinemax remain coveted premium channels in the multichannel video program distribution ecosystem.

But with Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video and other subscription streaming services significantly growing their sub bases, HBO is upping the ante through aggressive marketing of its brand and programming across both physical and digital channels.

Enter the “HBO Sampler,” a bonus-feature on select HBO Blu-ray releases. The sampler enables consumers with Internet-connected BD players to watch full episodes of HBO and Cinemax original series without an HBO subscription.

The sampler affords access to first-season premiere episodes of “Girls” (now in its fourth season), “Looking” (now in its second season) and “Banshee” (now in its third season). Also included is the first episode of new comedy series “Togetherness,” from brothers Jay and Mark Duplass, which debuted on HBO in January and was recently renewed for a second season.

Titles slated for the April sampler update include season-one premiere episodes of “Veep,” “Silicon Valley” and “Game of Thrones,” all of which return to HBO with new episodes that month. It will also include the first episode of “True Detective” season one ahead of its second season later this year.

While the sampler only includes single-season episodes, HBO said future content could include new original series soon after they air, in addition to exclusive trailers and related content.

Because the content is delivered via a connected Blu-ray player, sampler episodes will be updated quarterly across all activated titles to reflect current season programming. As a result, consumers can see new HBO and Cinemax shows from the original BD disc.

“This also provides us with an opportunity to introduce fans of specific HBO and Cinemax series to other shows they may enjoy,” Sofia Chang, EVP and GM of HBO Home Entertainment, said in a statement.

The HBO Sampler is currently active on BD releases of “Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season,” “True Blood: The Complete Sixth Season,” “True Blood: The Complete Seventh Season,” “Boardwalk Empire: The Complete 4th Season,” “Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Fifth Season,” “The Newsroom: The Complete Second Season” and “True Detective.”

Last month, HBO launched digital gift cards at Costco stores that enable consumers to watch assorted original series via connected digital devices without a subscription. The premium channel is slated to launch a standalone OTT video service later this year.

Speaking at an investor event this past December, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said there exist upwards of 15 million domestic basic cable households not subscribing to HBO or Cinemax — a situation he wants rectified.

“[They] are natural consumers of HBO,” Bewkes told the UBS 42nd Annual Global Media and Communications confab in New York. “We’re hoping to make that available.”


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