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Honeymoon Over for HBO Now?

20 Oct, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

HBO CEO Richard Plepler

When HBO launched $15 monthly subscription streaming service HBO Now April 7, CEO Richard Plepler indicated reception within the pay-TV landscape was generally supportive of the OTT video service targeting broadband-only and HBO-less households.

“We see this as an expansion of the pie, not cannibalistic at all of our current business,” the executive said at the time.

Speaking Oct. 20 at The Wall Street Journal’s WSJD Live tech confab in Laguna Beach, Calif., Plepler sounded a bit less enthused regarding pay-TV’s response to HBO’s answer to Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus and rival Showtime.

Plepler said companies such as Comcast, Charter and AT&T should offer HBO Now to their broadband-only subscribers as a good business decision. Currently, only Cablevision and Verizon carry HBO Now. Charter just launched Spectrum TV — a $13 monthly online TV service offering subs the option of either HBO or Showtime.

The executive called out Comcast CEO Brian Roberts for not offering the cabler’s broadband-only subs HBO Now. Comcast has heretofore opposed accommodating third-party OTT video services. That stance may be changing with subsidiary NBC Universal licensing NBC to Charter’s Spectrum TV.

“If you’re Brian [Roberts] and you have 6 million broadband subs, why would you not bundle HBO and share that revenue with us? Why would you give up that real estate and not be paid for it? I don’t understand it," Plepler said.

The executive reiterated internal data that suggests just 1% of traditional HBO subs have switched to HBO Now.

Separately, Plepler said he looked forward to adding news content from Vice to HBO — a genre Netflix said it expects to emulate within two years.

“I like the grit of [Vice],” he told WSJD Live. “I like their bravery. I like their storytelling.”

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