HBO launches VOD service in U.K.

Subscription offer could be model for other territories

LONDON — HBO is launching a subscription video-on-demand service in the U.K., the first time it will be available as a stand-alone branded destination in Blighty.

Rolling out this spring, service will be carried by competing British digital platforms Virgin Media, BT Vision and Tiscali TV as a bundled offering.

The HBO service will not, at least in the short term, be available to subscribers at BSkyB, Blighty’s biggest paybox. That’s because the satcaster does not yet have the technical ability to deal with this kind of offering, according to HBO.

Initially, the ad-free service aims to provide upwards of 50 hours of HBO fare, including dramas “The Sopranos” and “Six Feet Under,” miniseries “Band of Brothers” and comedy specials “Ellen DeGeneres: The Beginning” and “Chris Rock: Never Scared.”

Move follows launch of an HBO subscription VOD service in Israel in November. HBO on Demand bowed in the U.S. in July 2001.

“We want to expand internationally, and this is a good way to do it,” said Simon Sutton, HBO prexy of programming distribution and international.

“Our VOD service in the U.S. works very well,” he added. “We see this form of distribution as the future of TV, especially since more and more people are using PVRs.

“This is a model we’d like to take to other places across Western Europe in the next couple of years.”

Sutton discounted suggestions that the arrival of HBO subscription VOD would have a negative impact on demand for the studio’s shows from U.K. buyers.

HBO fare such as “The Sopranos” has made a big impact for webs like Channel 4 in Blighty.

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