HBO: digital to the Max

Expanding upon its digital offerings, on May 17, Home Box Office will offer HBO/Max Pak, a multiplex package designed to more broadly appeal to the unique interests of its viewers, according to Olivia Smashum, senior vice president, subscriber marketing and business development, HBO.

The new service combines HBO's original programming with Cinemax's movie offerings under a single, comprehensive service. "With HBO/Max Pak, we feel we offer the consumer the best of both worlds with two strong brands," Smashum says.

The HBO/Max Pak, which is similar in concept to Starz' 12-channel Super Pak that rolled out last year, features seven HBO channels and eight Cinemax channels, including four new Cinemax ones: WMax, @Max, OuterMax and 5StarMax.

The HBO/Max Pak will be available to all HBO and Cinemax distributors and will be transmitted digitally in East Coast feeds. HBO is currently discussing carriage of the new package with cable and satellite affiliates.

"As operators increase their channel capacity, the premium channels are a reason people would sign up with digital," Smashum comments.

"They recognize the value of [HBO's premium service] as they have channel space available. We have been very successful in securing distribution. Satellite operators understand the importance of having the increased choice for consumers to make the additional investment," she adds.

The HBO/Max Pak will consist of the branded channels HBO, HBO Plus, HBO Signature, HBO Comedy, HBO Family, HBO Zone, HBO Latino, Cinemax, MoreMax, ActionMax, ThrillerMax, WMax, @Max, OuterMax and 5StarMax.

HBO Latino is the latest in HBO's digital networks. "It is a fast-growing audience and is really important to the growth of digital cable and satellite," Smashum says. HBO Plus shows the same programming as the main feed of HBO for "more choice and opportunity to see first-run programming," she says.

She describes Signature as the destination for women (who, she says, as a group tend to be underserved) and HBO Family as a "high-quality place that kids and families can watch without any concerns and reservations." There's also HBO Comedy and HBO Zone, offering programming geared toward viewers ages 18-35, with an emphasis on the 18-25 age group. "These are the people that are now coming into the category," she explains. "When they think of entertainment, we hope that they think of HBO."

The network employs a similar strategy for Cinemax, which is preparing for the launch of its four new channels.

WMax was designed for women; @Max was developed for adults ages 18-30, with movies included; 5StarMax is designed to offer the broadest appeal with new movies and some classics; and OuterMax will offer sci-fi, horror, action-adventure and fantasy films.

HBO has no advertising on any of its digital networks and plans to keep it that way. "That's another thing that makes us valuable to the consumer," Smashum says. "We're non-commercial, non-ad-supported, with no interruptions."

"Having a large digital universe is key," says Smashum. "From HBO's perspective, we are looking for deeper, richer relationships with the subscribers.and to increase acquisition and retention."