Time Warner’s Bewkes: Piracy of HBO ‘Game of Thrones’ Is ‘Better Than an Emmy’

Time Warner's Bewkes: Piracy of HBO

Global Internet piracy actually helps spread the word about original programming like HBO’s “Game of Thrones” — ultimately leading to more paying subscribers for the premium cabler, according to Time Warner Inc. topper Jeff Bewkes.

Studies have shown the “Game of Thrones” is among the most-pirated TV show around the world. In the final analysis “that’s better than an Emmy,” Bewkes said, speaking on the media conglom’s second-quarter earnings call. His comment may have been somewhat tongue-in-cheek but Bewkes’ point was that buzz is good for the HBO brand.

SEE ALSO: Pirates Pillage 1M Copies of ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 3 Opener

That’s not to discount the value of an Emmy, though: Previously, Bewkes boasted that HBO had snagged 108 Primetime Emmy Award noms this year, the most of any network for 13 years running.

HBO offers an Internet-streaming service to subscribers, HBO Go, and some industry analysts have questioned whether password sharing is cutting into potential revenue. However, a recent study showed many consumers engaged in password sharing said they would be willing to subscribe to the services.

As far as people trying to steal HBO’s programming, “we’ve been dealing with this issue for literally 20-30 years,” Bewkes said, back to the days when pirates were “running wires down the back of apartment buildings” to illegally watch the channel.

“Our experience is, it all leads to more subs,” Bewkes said. Word-of-mouth about HBO shows lets the cabler spend less on advertising, he added: “We let the programming and reviews talk for us.”

SEE ALSO: Comcast Developing Anti-Piracy Alternative to ‘Six Strikes’

Also on the call, Bewkes discussed the possibility of the pay TV biz moving to a la carte programming. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., recently introduced a bill that would force a la carte TV pricing.

The Time Warner chief said that a shift to pure a la carte is probably not in the offing, with a more likely scenario being a shift to smaller bundles of channels. If that happens “we do believe we are very well positioned,” with networks like TNT, TBS and CNN that are among the top cablers.

“We doubt (a la carte pricing) will happen but if it does, it will happen in a way that will help us,” he said.

Meanwhile, asked about new pay TV offerings from over-the-top entrants like Intel Media, Bewkes said ”we’re not philosophically opposed to it, but we don’t see it being viable through any of the usual suspects yet.”

Regarding Intel specifically, Bewkes said, “I don’t know what they’re going to do or whether they’re going to do that.” Time Warner talks to Apple “all the time” and has had discussions about licensing programming with “a number of technology companies,” he said.

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  1. In some markets, for example here in Sweden HBO is ONLY avaliable as a standalone, internet-only “Go” service. No swedish cable operators carry HBO, and probably HBO will make more money by selling direct to customers than revenue share with cable companies.

    • Joe Smart says:

      I think they will go in that direction eventually but right now a lot more people in America have cable and satellite than stream programs over the internet so the economics don’t make sense. Yet. But cable keeps getting more expensive and it will eventually arrive at a tipping point where most people can no longer afford it. HBO Go already exists and can be offered as a standalone whenever HBO thinks it makes economic sense. That’s why I think they monitor the download numbers for their programs–those are all internet savvy consumers who are potential customers for a standalone HBO Go.

  2. Joe Smart says:

    I wonder how many of those people who download HBO programming would pay for HBO Go as a standalone streaming service like Netflix and Hulu if given the opportunity. Right now you need to be a cable subscriber to use HBO Go but it seems inevitable down the line that HBO will offer it as a standalone service. Since HBO is tracking the numbers rather than trying to stop people from downloading they are probably looking for the tipping point where it makes sense to pull the trigger on HBO Go as a standalone service and risk pissing off cable and satellite operators.

    • davebaxter says:

      Actually, HBO Go is already a standalone streaming service – I pay for it and get via my Roku streaming player which originally only gave me Netflix. Now it has Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu, and HBO Go (among many many others). So at least if you have a Roku, then Go is no diff than Netflix or Hulu or Amazon.

      • Joe Smart says:

        No, it isn’t a standalone service because you need to be an HBO cable subscriber in order to get a password to use HBO Go. I’m talking about subscribing to HBO Go even if you don’t have cable or satellite. The only place in the world where HBO Go is available as a standalone service right now is in Scandanavia.

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