HBO’s streaming service is expected to launch next month and may include a partnership with Apple, it has been reported. Although neither company has confirmed the rumours, there is speculation that HBO is in talks with Apple about its HBO Now direct-to-consumer service being featured on Apple TV. HBO Go – the network’s online video service offering a selection of its films and TV shows – is already available to HBO subscribers on Apple TV and many other devices.
The news generated a bump in Time Warner (parent company of HBO) stock, pushing it to $83.80. Shares closed at $83.08, down 0.1 per cent, and were down slightly (0.15 per cent) in after-hours trading at $82.96.
According to the International Business Times, the service is expected to launch this April, priced at $15 a month. This will coincide with the premiere of the fifth season of Games of Thrones on Sunday 12 April. For the first time customers will be able to subscribe directly to HBO Now from HBO, rather than via a satellite, telco or cable TV provider. The monthly fee seems high when compared with Netflix which in the US costs from $7.99 per month.
The company is targeting the 10 million homes in the US which only have broadband, rather than pay-TV. Announcing HBO Now at a Time Warner investment meeting last year, HBO CEO Richard Plepler described this as: “a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped. It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO.” He continued, “in 2015, we will launch a stand-alone, over-the-top, HBO service in the United States. We will work with our current partners. And, we will explore models with new partners. All in, there are 80 million homes that do not have HBO and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them.”
HBO is working with streaming partner Major League Baseball Advanced Media, which offers white-label streaming technology for clients like WWE Network. The network’s outsourcing of the service’s streaming technology led to the resignation last year of its CTO Otto Berkes, who announced in a memo to staff: “Recently HBO’s management decided to partner with a third party to assist HBO in bringing our OTT service to market in 2015. This is a change in direction from what I planned with HBO and the approach will not utilise my overall capabilities.”
It is important that HBO Go and HBO Now remain as two very separate services, to avoid customer confusion – this will largely be down to how the new streaming service is marketed in the run-up to launch.