HBO Finally Tests Broadband Waters

Green Bay Time Warner Cable Subscribers Will Get Free Add-On Service HBO On Broadband 1/20/2008 05:03:00 PM Eastern

After hanging back while its pay-cable competitors joined the rush to offer programming online, HBO is testing the broadband waters.

HBO On Broadband

On Tuesday, the premium channel will launch HBO On Broadband, a service that allows subscribers to stream HBO online and temporarily download titles on-demand. The service will be offered initially as a free add-on for Time Warner Cable subscribers in Green Bay, Wis. The company, a division of Time Warner, declined to detail plans for a national rollout.

Time Warner has 576,000 subscribers -- 365,000 of them digital -- in the Milwaukee area where HBO On Broadband is launching. It’s those digital subscribers who will be able to access the broadband channel.

Available only to HBO subscribers, HBO On Demand and their chosen operator’s high-speed-Internet service, HBO On Broadband offers a 700-kilobit-per-second live stream of HBO’s main feed. But the key feature is the rotating mix of theatrical titles and original programming -- some 400 total hours per month -- that users can download and keep on their hard drives for up to four weeks.

"This is part of our overall strategy of enhancing value for HBO subscribers by providing greater access to content," said HBO co-president Eric Kessler, who likened the launch to the company’s rollout of HBO On Demand in Columbia, S.C., in 2001.

The new service allows users to assemble and manage a library of downloads, as well as set parental controls, through a Microsoft Windows-based application (Wisconsin subscribers can download it at HBO is developing a separate Mac application and is looking at offering the service on Windows-based portable devices down the road.

HBO’s approach reflects its concern for protecting its subscription business model, as well as its relationships with operators.

"We’ve always embraced technology," Kessler said, "and this is a subscription business that has value over the long term because broadband penetration and convergence will grow."

Anne Becker contributed to this story