HBO set for gains into 2015

HBO will begin picking up modest gains in subscribers through 2015, according to new IHS Screen Digest research. As a result of this increase, and with total net revenue rising at a 1.5 per cent compound annual growth rate through 2015, Screen Digest estimates total net revenue per average subscriber per month for HBO and sister company Cinemax will rise steadily in the coming years, increasing to $8.73 in 2015, up from $7.86 in 2009.

HBO’s reinvigoration has coincided with the coming-of-age of its Internet-distributed multiscreen strategy. The HBO GO online and mobile streaming app already has achieved more than 1 million downloads since its April 29th launch, offering access to more than 1,400 titles on its own library and that of Cinemax.

Available on the Apple iPhone and iPad, and also on Google Android devices, the HBO GO app is available free of charge to customers already paying for HBO and Cinemax through a pay-TV provider, as long as the pay-TV provider has struck a deal with Time Warner to offer the service. Subscribers also have access to HBO GO content via the HBO GO website—or in some cases through partner operator services—and likewise it is accessible to HBO customers via Google TV’s over-the-top platform. It is not inconceivable that further deployments, possibly via games consoles and connected TVs, may appear too.

Such wide availability fits into HBO’s expansive online strategy, which now also includes the first steps towards social TV functionality through HBO Connect, as the premium network seeks to create a wide ecosystem presence across connected devices.

HBO notably has shored up the momentum of HBO GO with its newest hit show Game of Thrones. The show has been made available to HBO GO users a week ahead of its network premiere, with extremely high customer demand for the latest episode of the show online outstripping HBO’s ability to serve it.

HBO GO is offered at present by Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network, Cox Communications, Verizon, AT&T, and Suddenlink. However, two major cable operators, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision, have yet to sign on. Launched last year, HBO Go is designed to strengthen and enhance the subscription value of HBO customers by expanding their online viewing options, said Erik Brannon, analyst, US Cable Networks, at IHS.

“Just like its website counterpart, the HBO GO app is designed to keep users subscribing to services marketed by a pay-TV operator,” Brannon noted. “By no means is this encouraging pay-TV customers to cut the cord—as access to all HBO GO services requires a current subscription to a pay-TV provider. For now, the impressive usability of the HBO GO service is only working to strengthen the position of the traditional pay-TV subscription fee, though this may well evolve long term as consumer habits change, much like we witnessed with Netflix’s transition away from DVD.”

HBO GO is available to approximately 80 per cent of the 39 million-strong HBO and Cinemax subscriber base through the cable and satellite operators that carry it, but the absence of Time Warner Cable and Cablevision means that most of the Los Angeles and New York City markets lack access to HBO GO.

Part of this omission might be rectified soon, given that Time Warner Cable is in talks with former owner Time Warner to carry the service to almost all of the operator’s subscribers.

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