The pay TV network will begin offering its subscribers access to “HBO Go” programming (5/2) on Android mobile devices and Apple iPhone and iPad tablet at no additional charge. HBO hopes the iPad will kick-start HBO Go, the online viewing option for current HBO subscribers that the network launched last year. The move marks a turn for the Time Warner-owned channel. So far, as broadcast networks have rushed to move their shows on the Web, HBO has held back, careful not to lose cable and satellite subscribers for a less expensive online model. And so, people who do not subscribe to the channel through their cable, satellite or telephone provider will not be able to access HBO’s programming online or via mobile devices.
However, HBO realizes the upscale content competition is stiffer from Showtime, AMC, FX and other networks that have run with shows like “Dexter,” “Mad Men” and “Sons of Anarchy.” Gone are the days when The Sopranos ruled the original programming stable from cable.
“That device has changed television,” HBO Co-President Eric Kessler said, pointing to an iPad during an interview with the LA Times at the company’s Santa Monica offices.
HBO generates $1.4 billion annually in operating income for parent Time Warner.
HBO Go only recently began to pick up momentum with cable and satellite TV operators that are the gateway for the online option. Heavyweights such as DirecTV signed on after HBO added more than 1,400 hours of programming, including full seasons of such hits as “True Blood” and “The Sopranos” to the HBO Go library. Currently, about 80% of HBO’s homes can access the pay channel’s online service.
“What we don’t want to do is devalue the brand,” Kessler told the paper. “Our online strategy is about exclusivity.”
Later this spring, HBO will make the unprecedented move to premiere an episode of its new hit “Game of Thrones” on the tablet device before it appears on its television channel. It is counting on fans spreading the news via social media. With a touch of the pad, viewers can alert their Facebook friends that they are watching a program on HBO Go.