For the first time in the cable network’s history, HBO is set to open up its catalogue of television to non-cable owners, after the company announced plans to launch a standalone, web-based streaming service à la Netflix in 2015.
Chairman and CEO Richard Plepler believes evolving to offer an autonomous streaming service will benefit the company from top to bottom.
“That is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped. It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO. So, 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.”
At this stage, the deal remains exclusive to North America; though Plepler didn’t rule out the possibility of expanding worldwide should the standalone service prove to be a hit in the States. That expansion depends on a variety of make-or-break variables including pricing, content selection and the quality of the stream itself.
Given the array of like-minded competitors, it’ll be fascinating to see how the move pans out. Netflix has long labelled HBO as its primary competitor, and though many expect the streaming service to react to today’s news, it is still leading the digital charge in the subscription-based field — heck, it’s already beaming out some of our favorite shows in 4K resolution.
Of course, not many channels can claim to hold exclusive access to the likes of Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire and True Detective. Which leads us to wonder, with more ways to access HBO, will satellite providers and pay-TV companies experience a dip in subscribers?
Either way, the over-the-top service is a sure sign of the effect that services such as Netflix have had on long-running networks. And, in the end, competition always benefits the end user one way or another.
Welcome to 2014, HBO.