HBO Chief Downplays Binge Viewing; Says Turner, Warner Bros. Content Could Join HBO Now

Game of Thrones HBO
Courtesy of HBO

HBO CEO Richard Plepler said he was pleased with the reception the premium channel’s new standalone service had received since launching in April, but declined to provide any subscription data.

“We’re out of the gate fast,” Plepler said during a call with analysts following Time Warner’s quarterly earnings announcement.

HBO, which is a division of Time Warner, is forging into the world of streaming with the hopes of attracting 10 million to 15 million potential customers it says are interested only in broadband video services. That argument has been coolly received by some cable operators, however, who fear that the online-only platform could entice subscribers to cut the cord and abandon the cable bundle for cheaper digital offerings.

Currently, HBO Now is available via Apple TV and Apple iOS devices, as well as through Cablevision’s Optimum Online internet service. The number of providers could quickly grow, Plepler said, describing conversations with other cable and satellite providers about potentially adding HBO Now to their offerings as “highly productive.” He expects deals will be in place by the end of 2015.

Part of HBO’s pitch to cable providers is that the online service adds customers who need access to better broadband. To that end, Plepler stressed that so far it does not appear that the standalone service is taking customers away from its cable offerings. “It’s an expansion of the pie,” he said.

HBO Now offers access to shows like “Game of Thrones,” “Girls” and “Veep” along with the network’s original films and movies it hosts from studios like Fox. That roster of programming could become more extensive, Plepler said. “We think the HBO Now product as it currently exists is quite extraordinary,” he said, but added he was “very flexible” about possibly adding content from its corporate cousins Warner Bros. and Turner.

Time Warner chairman Jeff Bewkes said that the partnership with Apple has been a fruitful one so far and predicted that the tech giant will eventually offer its own packages of TV content.

“We think Apple is very forward-thinking about television and the combination of TV and Internet,” said Bewkes.

HBO Now’s launch is a shot across the bow of Netflix, which has cornered the market on edgy, online programming such as “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards.” However, the premium cable channel scoffed at suggestions it might debut a full season’s worth of programming simultaneously in order to cater to so-called binge viewers.

Plepler said HBO prefers to have shows like “The Jinx,” its twisty true-life murder tale, build an audience over the course of a season by “continuing the conversation over eight weeks, 10 weeks, or 12 weeks.”

Parroting Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men,” Bewkes joked, “You can’t handle the binge.”

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  1. kathy says:

    Please run HELTER SKELTER the 1976 or version please cc it. I am deaf. Please notify my email as to when.

  2. Barbara Ann says:

    HBO is right – I liked watching JINX over a few weeks. I also enjoy GAME OF THRONES rolled out that way. I do not have time to binge watch much anyway.

  3. Roy Batty says:

    Interesting that no one is commenting on the one big current problem with HBO Now – it’s not in full HD. And unlike other streaming services, there’s no user setting to make it play in HD.

    The Apple deal was a terrible idea to begin – did HBO not see see what happened when Apple made exclusive deals with AT & T for the iPhone, they lost market dominance. Android phones took advantage of that exclusivity and by the time the various iPhones were released to other carriers it was too late.

    HBO Now is making the same mistake.

  4. If it had not been for binge watching i never would have gotten into Game of Thrones ! The first few seasons i figured who cares, then i watched the first couple of episodes, and now I am hooked !

  5. Charly says:

    Binge watching is the future, the cat is out of the bag. The four episodes of Game of Thrones that leaked were binge watched by anyone who could get their hands on them. The idea of waiting for a series to air weekly is “so cable”. I do agree with nerd rage when he/she states “I can figure it out for myself”. It is ultimately patronizing and elitist for HBO to act like their shows are better than everything else out there. We are in a golden age of television HBO no longer holds the key to the best content. HBO has wonderful content – do not get me wrong – but the future will be decided by the user. If HBO wants to compete with Netflix in terms of streaming their content then they should look at how the masses are consuming content. I can personally say that everyone I know both young and old binge watch their favourite series and would if they could binge watch other shows such as Game of Thrones.

    • Matrices says:

      You can binge watch Game of Thrones. I’ve done it. Just start when the season is done airing and binge away..

  6. I binge watched the first season of Game of Thrones long after it had aired because I was overseas when it came on in North America. And frankly I found it more entertaining to watch it all within two or three days. Then watching each episode of season 2 week to week and then waiting ten months for the next season was like being kept away from the cookie jar when I really have the munchies. So I went and bought all five books and binge read them all within two months just to get my fix.

  7. nerdrage says:

    The funny thing is, Netflix also admits that most people don’t binge view. They dole out their viewing over time, on their own schedule. Can’t see any disadvantage to having a show drop all episodes at once. If I want to watch it each week on Monday at 9pm, hey I have a calendar and a clock. I can figure that little thing out for myself.

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