Cable Operators

HBO In Discussions For 'TV Everywhere' Deals: Kessler

3/24/2010 1:50 PM Eastern

Pleased with early "TV Everywhere" returns from its relationships with Verizon FiOS and Comcast, HBO is moving toward deals with other distributors.
Eric Kessler, co-president of HBO, told an audience gathered at Multichannel News/B&C's "TV Everywhere & Anywhere" breakfast event here March 24, that the premium programmer is engaged in conversations with a number of different distributors about the platform that enables authenticated subscribers to access content from multiple touch points.

HBO's Eric Kessler with B&C's Melissa Grego at the In response to a query by B&C executive editor Melissa Grego, Kessler said those discussions are at different stages, with some touching on the authentication process, billing systems and marketing, while others involve "launches and deployment dates."

Kessler, who said this business is "not about tomorrow, but setting the table for the future," anticipates some additional distribution announcements will be made over the next few months.
Currently, HBO Go is available to Verizon FiOS TV and Internet customers who subscribe to HBO, as they can access more than 600 hours of content, for no additional charge, by logging in at either the premium network's HBOGo.com site or via a Verizon site.
Comcast offers the same 600-plus hours of HBO content through its Fancast Xfinity TV online service, which the cable company launched for double-play cable TV and broadband customers nationwide in December.
Kessler, noting that while the former affords the programmer more branding, HBO is nonetheless "willing to pursue different executable applications with affiliates. We're happy to work with them in any way we can."
Asked why the programmer is not going directly to users with HBO Go, Kessler said that such an a la carte option doesn't work well from business, affiliate and consumer perspectives. He noted that of the 115 million TV homes in the U.S. today, 104 million purchase multichannel video packages, so the potential additions represent a relatively small base, with economics that don't compute because of high-acquisition costs.
During his keynote address, Kessler said the company discovered many things during its HBO on Broadband trial with Time Warner Cable's Wisconsin division during 2008-09, which provided downloadable, on-demand video via the Road Runner cable-modem service. Those lessons learned included search; authentication; a move away from multiplexing; consumer appreciation of a more cinematic-quality experience; and the decision to use a one-click video player, rather than reliance on downloaded content.
He also noted the importance of having consistency of look and functionality across platforms, including HBO.com and its iPhone application. "Something as simple as [content] categorization is important. We don't want consumers to have think [about a particular technology], but just enjoy the experience," said Kessler.
HBO Go, according to Kessler, provides subscribers with options, convenience and mobility aimed at prolonging their enjoyment, satisfaction and loyalty to the brand, which is critical to HBO because subscribers "vote with their pocketbook every month."
TV Everywhere and HBO Go are the latest examples of the programmer being at the forefront of technology as a mechanism to fortify and increase its subscription base. Kessler underlined that point by noting that HBO, which was the first network to multiplex in 1990 and launch an on-demand business in 2001, derived 59% of its audience of Hollywood buddy series Entourage in 2004 through its premiere showings, with 41% coming via multiplexing. Last year, an audience breakdown showed 34% of viewing of Vinnie Chase and crew emanated from Entourage premieres, 20% from HBO multiplexes, 21% from DVR and 25% from HBO On Demand.
Over time with wider distribution and greater consumer education and awareness for TV Everywhere iterations, usage will increase, according to Kessler, who doesn't believe that HBO Go is "a generational thing" as people in their forties, fifties and sixties watch online content.
Current and future platforms and ease of navigation notwithstanding, Kessler maintains HBO's success is and always will remain predicated on "consumers' relationship with our programming."

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