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HBO’s Plepler: New Broadband Project Will Not Cannibalize Customer Base

Richard Plepler HBO CEO
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Uttering a rallying cry – “Let’s go get them!” – HBO’s top executive pushed back against criticism that his company’s efforts to distribute the network via broadband streaming starting next year would cannibalize its existing customers.

“I just don’t believe it’s true,” said Richard Plepler, HBO’s chairman and chief executive, speaking during a session held by the Paley Center for Media Thursday morning. He said the company believes there are anywhere from 10 million to 15 million “broadband-only” customers who would be willing to take HBO in this new fashion. In other words, he said, the broadband service would not take customers who are already subscribing from cable – at least not initially.

“This isn’t either/or,” he said. “It’s additive.”

Plepler said he has held discussions with many of HBO’s distribution partners, telling them that “there’s gold in the hills,” and that they should work together to woo customers. Because most broadband access is controlled by players like Comcast, Verizon, DirecTV and more, he said, the HBO effort does not pose a conflict with companies that already sell the network to consumers. “They agree that there’s an enormous amount of opportunity out there.”

The figures Plepler offered suggests HBO has an even more optimistic view of the potential for its broadband service than it did when it unveiled its intentions in October. At that time, HBO suggested the planned service’s potential consumer base was 10 million.

Plepler also tilted at Netflix, suggesting that the video-streaming entertainment service served more as a means for viewers to “catch up” with older programs, or perhaps watch a few new programs. HBO, on the other hand, offers substantially more hours of original programming and has deals with more studios to broadcast first-run movies. “HBO is a very, very unique premium service, and I don’t think there’s any confusion about that at all,”: he said.