×

HBO Upgrading HBO Go for a Future It’s Not Ready to Embrace

CEO hints at possibility of buying HBO Go without subscribing to the channel

Consumers could eventually be able to buy HBO Go without having to pay for a subscription to the pay-TV channel if the latest series of hints from HBO CEO Richard Plepler are to be believed–just not anytime soon.

For months now, Plepler has repeatedly suggested such an offering is a possibility, and his appearance Thursday at the Nomura  Global Media & Telecom Summit was no exception. This time he went so far as to suggest HBO Go was being upgraded to ensure unspecified consumer “flexibility” and “optionality” while simultaneously making abundantly clear a standalone HBO Go is in no way imminent.

“Right now we have the right model,” said Plepler. ” If we determine down the road that we want to pivot in some way, we’ll be ready to do that. [HBO chief technology officer] Otto Berkes  is working with engineers to improve that product. One thing that will not happen in the coming years is we won’t be caught unable to pivot if we so choose but for now, we’re running our business just as we want to run it.”

Plepler likened the current iteration of HBO Go to a BMW 5 Series, but suggested the company wanted to “build the 7 Series. We are working with engineers to do that,” he said, though stopped short of suggesting specific functionality enhancements or release timetable.

The rationale for HBO sticking to its knitting is that that the cost of chasing a relatively small market of broadband-only subscribers is prohibitive, especially when there’s still a much bigger market in the U.S.–about 70 million–who are pay-TV customers who don’t get HBO.

Plepler also reiterated that HBO is unconcerned with the anecdotal evidence suggesting password-sharing for HBO Go is rampant. “Everything we can see on password-sharing is that its very small, that it’s almost nonexistent,” he said.

SEE ALSO: Time to Free HBO Go From its TV Shackles

On a counterintuitive note, Plepler also talked up the importance of the movies that HBO gets from its theatrical output deals relative to the original programming that typically gets much more attention. He shared stats noting that 81% of the content viewing on HBO is theatrical movies and that 40% of its subscribers don’t even watch original programming.

“While original programming is the halo of our brand, our subscribers love the movie,” he said. “Securing that theatrical advantage was very important. Huge advantage with our affiliates and our customers.”

At a time when Netflix is aggressively hawking its original programming like “Arrested Development,” it was a good time to tout a series of deals last year that saw HBO increase its advantage over pay-TV rivals like Starz and Showtime as well as Netflix, which will take over the Disney output deal from Starz beginning in 2016.  While Netflix, Epix and Starz each have a single output deal with a major studio, HBO now has 3.5 such deals.

“I think people thought in the financial community that we were going to lose that advantage,” said Plepler. “We didn’t.”

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Venn co-founders

    VENN Raises $17 Million to Launch a Cheddar-like TV Network for Gaming

    Video game industry veterans Ariel Horn and Ben Kusin have raised a massive $17 million seed funding round to launch a new gaming-focused TV network called VENN. Short for Video Game Entertainment and News Network, VENN wants to mix esports with Twitch-style video game streaming and other gaming-related entertainment content when it launches in 2020. [...]

  • Amazon Music

    Amazon Music Unveils HD: the ‘Highest Quality Audio’ for Streaming

    Amazon Music today became the first of the three major streaming services to offer high-definition sound with the launch of Amazon Music HD. According to the announcement, the service offers a new tier of high quality, lossless audio with more than 50 million songs in High Definition, and millions of songs in Ultra High Definition, which it claims [...]

  • United Talent Agency Reveals New Logo

    UTA Unveils New Logo, Corporate Image

    UTA raised the curtain Monday on a new corporate logo. The three-dimensional image is meant to emphasize the talent agency’s focus on uniting ideas, opportunities and talent. Building signage with the new logo will go up next month at UTA’s headquarters in Beverly Hills. “Our new identity captures the multiple facets and intersections of our [...]

  • Altice One set-top

    Amazon Prime Video Coming to Altice's Optimum, Suddenlink Cable Services

    Altice USA plans to launch Amazon Prime Video for Optimum and Suddenlink cable customers nationwide in the next few months, under a pact announced Monday. Altice is the third pay-TV operator in the U.S. with a distribution deal for Amazon Prime Video, after Comcast and Cox Communications. The cable operator is adding Prime Video to [...]

  • youtube leanback screenshot

    YouTube to Shut Down Leanback Web TV Interface on October 2

    YouTube is getting ready to retire its TV-optimized browser interface, also known as YouTube Leanback, on October 2, Variety has learned. The move comes as YouTube is putting a bigger emphasis on its native TV apps, but also represents a blow to users who directly connected their PCs to their TVs. YouTube started to inform [...]

  • Terminator: Dark Fate

    Paramount & Adobe Launch ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Trailer Remix Contest

    Adobe has teamed up with Paramount Pictures to launch a remix contest for the trailer of “Terminator: Dark Fate,” which is set to debut in theaters November 1. The winner of the contest will get $10,000 as well as a one-year Adobe Creative Cloud membership and a private screening of the movie for up to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content