HBO’s Plepler Sees ‘Gold in the Hills’ With OTT Play

Premium net’s CEO argues traditional TV set will still be the chief viewing option
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HBO CEO Richard Plepler reiterated his stance that the premium network’s plan to offer its broadband HBO Go service to non-HBO subscribers will not cannibalize its customer base.

“I don’t think it’s cannibalistic at all,” said Plepler during a session held by the Paley Center for Media as part of its International Council series. “We’re going to have a big business with [MSOs] and we’re going to have a big business with new partners.”

In fact, Plepler argues that since most consumers around the country get their Internet service from their cable companies, those operators would only serve to benefit. “Who controls the broadband pipes in the U.S.? Our distributors,” he said. “There is gold in the hills, lets go get it together … its your money too.” He estimated there are roughly 10-15 million homes that are broadband only.

Plepler described the idea for making HBO Go available in a broadband-only form came from wanting educate consumers who don’t understand the full value of HBO. “How many undecided voters are out there? How many people like the brand but don’t know the full value?” asks Plepler. “We want to create as many options as we can … to go out and get those homes.”

A few other highlights from the session:

— Plepler argued that despite the myriad of viewing platforms, the traditional TV set is still the king. He labeled iPad and iPhone viewing as more of a means to catch up on shows where viewers have fallen behind. “Who wouldn’t prefer to watch [Game of Thrones] on a 50-inch flatscreen?”

— An often overlooked part of HBO’s business, according to Plepler, is its theatrical movies, which he said accounts for 78% of all viewing on the pay cabler. He continued that 40% of subs only watch theatrical releases. “While original programming obviously takes up an enormous amount of the cultural halo for HBO, don’t forget the power of theatrical movies.”

— Another reason for the OTT play is the ability to better market themselves. “We’ve relied way too much on our partners to market us. They have other responsibilities.” Plepler said HBO is planning a massive marketing strategy for next year.

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