HBO channels o’seas

Cabler set to roll out service in Europe, Japan

HBO is poised to launch branded premium channels in Europe and Japan, international topper Simon Sutton told a Blighty confab Thursday.

In the long term HBO plans to roll out subscription services on cable in the U.K., Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Japan, with some of these launching within two years.

HBO already operates channels in Central America in addition to the U.S., but has held back from moving into Europe or Japan as a channel operator.

“We are thinking about having a branded presence in the world’s top six markets (outside the U.S.),” said Sutton, who returned to his job last fall after a five-month career break.

In the U.K., HBO shows such as “Rome,” “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos” air on BBC2 and Channel 4. But Sutton said HBO’s documentary output is unknown in this key territory and thus might form the basis of a new channel.

However, Sutton, presenting a keynote address at the Oxford Media Convention, said he didn’t see why licensing arrangements for skeins on terrestrial or cable webs in Blighty or elsewhere should be affected if HBO launched a branded channel in that territory.

“We don’t intend to take programming away from anyone,” he said. “It all depends on how different properties are windowed.”

C4 topper Andy Duncan said rolling out an HBO channel in Blighty would not affect C4’s relationship with HBO. “I don’t feel threatened by it,” he said.

In his speech Sutton stressed how the emergence of on-demand services was spearheading changes in U.S. broadcasting.

“Traditional ratings information can lose any meaning,” he claimed, citing how in the U.S. “Rome” lost auds to “Desperate Housewives” on Sunday nights partly because HBO subscribers could see “Rome” on demand whenever they wanted.

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