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Why HBO Is Keeping ‘Game of Thrones,’ Other Shows Out of Amazon’s Hands

HBO has found an ideal partner in Amazon to stream its older shows — and the duo’s tag-teaming is certainly a blow to Netflix.

But to understand why the deal is a smart move for HBO, it’s important to look at what the deal doesn’t include. First, it’s only for original series, miniseries and specials that are at least three years old. In industry lingo, it’s a “library deal.” That means for access to the most recent shows on HBO, you still need to purchase a subscription to HBO through a pay-TV provider.

Another carve-out: “Game of Thrones” will never be coming to Amazon Prime Instant Video, at least under the current agreement. HBO has decided to retain that for itself, given the immense interest in the franchise and the prospect that “GoT” will continue on for several more seasons.

SEE ALSO: HBO Cuts Exclusive Licensing Deal with Amazon

Also excluded are three older shows that are tied up in U.S. syndication deals: “Sex and the City,” “Entourage” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

And there’s more. The deal also excludes new and future shows on HBO — so that means “True Detective” and “Silicon Valley,” for example, are not ever going to be coming to Amazon Prime Instant Video either. (Again, under the terms of the present deal, which could be renewed at some point.)

HBO had once said that it would never license its programming to a subscription VOD service. While Netflix may have wanted to get its paws on HBO’s content, the cabler did not enter into discussions with Netflix about a licensing deal, according to a source familiar with the deal.

SEE ALSO: Netflix the ‘New HBO’? Get Real

Now HBO has done a deal with Amazon. So what changed? It’s a win-win for the cabler in the way it has structured the deal.

For everything new (or even recent), you still have to pay for HBO. Next, by licensing older shows to Amazon, HBO gets a nice check from Jeff Bezos — at least $200 million and potentially more than $400 million over the lifetime of the deal for HBO at a very high margin, according to estimates by Bernstein Research. Morgan Stanley more conservatively pegs the deal value at $200 million to $250 million, with additional revenue as more HBO series are added to the service.

Plus, HBO will benefit from the exposure of its original series to consumers who may decide to subscribe to HBO for the freshest stuff… or after they realize that, say, “Game of Thrones” is not going to be hitting the Amazon queue.

So make no mistake, HBO’s deal with Amazon is not really the cord-cutter’s dream. Nor will it do anything to depress the rampant piracy of HBO programming by those unwilling (or unable) to pay for the premium service. But it does provide a way for HBO to monetize older shows while preserving its core biz, and — perhaps just as important — extend and promote its brand with a next-generation video player. And that player, it’s worth noting, is not Netflix, which has actively compared itself to HBO to get the ear of Wall Street and Hollywood.

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