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Exec hired to oversee HBO Go

XBox creator Otto Berkes lured from Microsoft

The emergence of HBO Go has prompted the pay-TV net to put new focus on consumer technology.

HBO has hired Otto Berkes, one of the creators of Microsoft’s XBox gaming console, as senior VP consumer technology. He will focus on extending the HBO brand on alternative platforms, an aspect of the business gaining considerable momentum with HBO Go.

“We are very fortunate to have one of the visionary leaders in consumer technology on board to help us build upon HBO’s latest digital offering,” said HBO chief technology officer Bob Zitter, to whom Berkes will report.

The hiring of Berkes marks an increasing emphasis on strengthening HBO’s direct-to-consumer presence on devices like mobile and tablets, though for now HBO Go is only available to subscribers of the linear service.

Since launching as an app on the iPad in May, HBO Go managed to draw 1 million downloads in just a week. The service has seen its content supply double, and move over to platforms running the Android operating system as well.

HBO has been experimenting with its programming mix on HBO Go, offering sneak previews of content weeks before their debut on linear TV, including “True Blood” and interactive companion content for its new series “Game of Thrones.”Berkes, who is filling a new position at HBO, ended an 18-year run at Microsoft last month. Most recently he served as general manager to chief software architect Ray Ozzie.

Berkes was instrumental in the creation of XBox, which established Microsoft in the videogame business as a formidable player opposite the likes of Sony and Nintendo. Berkes was also an early proponent of tablet computing, and worked on prototypes that preceded Apple’s release of the iPad — a skill that could come in handy for HBO Go.

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