June 24, 2024

Media Decoder Blog: HBO Will Offer Channel by Internet in Northern Europe

The pay television service HBO is about to make a lot of Internet users in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden very happy.

HBO announced last week that it had formed a joint venture for HBO Nordic, bringing shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Sex and the City” to the four countries. Starting next month, HBO Nordic will do something that HBO has yet to do in other countries: let people subscribe to its channel via the Internet, bypassing traditional cable and satellite distributors.

“Our target group is younger and more urban than the existing premium pay TV subscribers and they consume TV on multiple screens, particularly on computers, smartphones and tablets,” Hervé Payan, the chief executive of the joint venture, said in a statement.

A similar subset of consumers in the United States has been craving a version of HBO via the Internet. The company has been resistant, because an Internet subscription option could upset its much more lucrative relationships with traditional distributors.

For now it streams a catalog of shows via the Internet to people who have subscribed the traditional way. But the European expansion hints at another way, one that some analysts say is inevitable for companies like HBO as consumers exercise more choice over their media diets.

HBO Nordic also demonstrates that HBO, a unit of Time Warner, and Netflix are increasingly competing head-to-head for subscribers. Netflix plans to start selling its online television and film service in the same four countries by the end of the year.

The Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings, who previously identified HBO as his company’s main rival, wrote on Facebook last Thursday, “Excited to see HBO join us in offering stand-alone streaming service in Scandinavia … what about the USA?”

He added, “We thought the first matchup would be in Albania.”

The Time Warner chief executive Jeffrey L. Bewkes took a shot at Netflix in a 2010 interview: “It’s a little bit like, is the Albanian Army going to take over the world? I don’t think so.”

HBO declined to respond to Mr. Hastings’ comment last week, though a spokesman said by e-mail, “I must admit it was funny.”

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/02/hbo-will-offer-channel-by-internet-in-northern-europe/?partner=rss&emc=rss

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