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Plepler: Charter-TWC Deal Presents Opportunities for HBO Now

Home Box Office chairman and CEO Richard Plepler said he sees big opportunities in the soon-to-be completed Charter Communications-Time Warner Cable merger, including a window to market the premium channel’s over-the-top service HBO Now to the combined company’s broadband-only customers.

Plepler, speaking at the Paley Center for Media’s Paley Media Council luncheon, said that “new” Charter will have about 6 million broadband-only customers.

“Why wouldn’t you want to bundle HBO Now and share in the profit and growth?” Plepler asked. “That would be up to them, how they want to grow the business. But I think that everybody realizes that’s another means of expanded out brand into consumers.”

Plepler added that there are also opportunities for the traditional HBO premium service. While HBO penetration at old Charter was high, at Time Warner Cable it was much lower.

“There is a huge opportunity for them and a huge opportunity for us to take that penetration up much higher,” Plepler said.

HBO launched the OTT service last April around the premiere of season five of Game of Thrones. Plepler said the service did well around the season six premier April 24, but declined to give subscriber numbers for the service. HBO Now had about 800,000 customers at the end of 2015.

Plepler talked about HBO’s content, adding that the service could possibly dive deeper into the kids’ genre – it purchased Sesame Street last year – or even expand its Hard Knocks professional football documentary franchise into another sport. But he stressed that the premium channel doesn’t need to do anything, but will take advantage of opportunities that it identifies.

“If an idea comes to us that we think is going to fill a hole or allow us to expand a franchise, we’re going to lean into it,” Plepler said.

The HBO chief also added that cord-cutters haven’t had a huge impact on HBO Now, adding that less than 1% of subscribers to the OTT service have cut their pay TV service. He added that the product is more of a “cord-never” phenomenon.