HBO CTO Berkes Resigns Over OTT Outsourcing

Cites Decision To Use MLBAM To Build New Platform (Updated)
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HBO confirmed reports that Otto Berkes, the premium programmer's chief technology officer, resigned after the company opted to hire a third party provider to build out a planned new over-the-top streaming service launching in 2015.

Berkes, one of the originators of Microsoft’s Xbox platform before joining HBO, said in an internal memo that he moved to New York nearly four years ago "for the opportunity to build something truly transformative for HBO’s business and the media industry. And we have done that. HBO has been invested in building out its streaming platform since the initial launch of HBO GO in 2010. This investment, which includes the creation of a Seattle software development center, has enabled HBO GO to serve many millions of customers and to grow to be one of the most popular streaming services in the U.S. 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 utilize my overall capabilities. Therefore, I feel that this is the right time for me to move on from HBO so that I am able to fully pursue my passion building world-class technology teams, products, and businesses."

He said he was "incredibly proud of everything that the entire technology group has achieved together over the years" and he offered his "best wishes to the team and for HBO’s future success."

Fortune reported, citing sources, that HBO had turned to Major League Baseball's MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) to build out the new streaming service, rather than continue an in-house version under development. The magazine said "insiders" said Berkes's Seattle center was considered empire building and cited some embarrassing HBO Go outages during premieres of big HBO series episodes, including the Game of Thrones season four premiere this past spring. 

Fortune said HBO said in a statement, using the internal name for the in-house OTT project: "Maui was one of several options on the table to accomplish the undertaking of offering a standalone HBO product for next year. It is not uncommon to use outside resources in this type of project. This in no way impacts our plans and we’re excited to bring an over-the-top HBO product to market next year."

Update: HBO confirmed that "MLBAM is working with us," but also pointed out "that we still have an internal technology group leading our efforts."