HBO Now Reports 800,000 Paid Subscribers

HBO chief Richard Plepler divulged that stand-alone OTT service HBO Now has reached 800,000 paid subscribers at the eight-month mark, arguing it has a lot of opportunity in both distribution growth and new programming.

“We’re very excited about where we are,” he said, noting the service had contributed significantly to the premium brand’s overall 2015 subscriber growth of 2.7 million. “Our mission and opportunity is to capture the revenue that reflects that subscriber growth,” he said.

The comments, during a conference call with investors, followed the company’s announcement of fourth-quarter earnings. Net income rose 18% to $857 million from $718 million in the year-earlier period despite a 6% drop in revenue to $7.1 billion.

HBO Now, Plepler noted, is still not available on two key platforms: PlayStation and Xbox. Those two account for roughly 20% of viewing of the authenticated HBO Go app.

One analyst asked Plepler about signs he interpreted as unwillingness by broadband providers to aggressively market HBO Now, lest it overshadow more traditional TV offerings, explained why the OTT service had “only” reached the 800,000 mark. “I wouldn’t say ‘only,’” he said. “I reject the notion that our major distributors out of hand do not want to bundle HBO Now. I don’t think that’s true. As our deals come up for renewal, I think we’ll see different kinds of packaging.”

He added, “If they want to sell HBO through skinny bundles, fantastic. If they want to sell HBO through triple-plays, fantastic. I think it’s very important to remember that over the last four years, we’ve grown by eight million subscribers in the U.S. In the 44-year history of our company, that’s 20% of our [total subscriber base]. What that tells you is, nobody is doing us any favors in terms of selling HBO.”

Plepler added that the service has not yet launched programming it has lined up amid great fanfare in recent months, including shows from Jon Stewart, Bill Simmons and a daily Vice News program.

Also on the topic of SVOD, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes declined to comment on reports the company was planning to invest in Hulu. But he added that the company is considering a range of “opportunities outside the pay-TV environment because consumers are looking for on-demand content.”