HBO has tied with Verizon FiOS TV to provide access to its online TV service
HBOGO.com. FiOS TV customers will receive over 600 hours of programming,
from any place in the U.S, the two companies said Wednesday (Feb. 17).
Customers can already access that same programming via Comcast's Fancast
product, though Eric Kessler, co-president of HBO, explained this is the first
time customers will see HBO's own interface at the Website, HBOGo.com.
Speaking at a press event at the HBO headquarters in New
York, Kessler said: "The more our subscribers
watch HBO, the more satisfied they are. The name of the game is
retention." Kessler said 25% of the content is refreshed weekly.
"This is HBO On Demand with the styling and the engine of a Ferrari.
As people get familiar with it, it will be as integral a part of the viewing
experience as HBO On Demand is today."
Kessler said between 20% and 30% of HBO's viewership is derived from its on
demand platform. Online viewing is also expected to boost viewing
numbers. Verizon has 2.9 million FiOS TV customers though not all of those are
HBOGO.com begins operation Thursday (Feb. 18) and is being promoted by a joint
Verizon/HBO marketing campaign, under the tagline, "Its HBO. On Your
The roll-out is part of an initiative of parent company Time Warner which is
looking to protect existing business models by making TV available online, only
to those who are pay-TV customers. HBO is eschewing any stand-alone offering
preferring to partner with the pay-TV and telecom partners. The company is in
discussion about making it available via Smart Phones. "There are
conversations with Verizon about delivering to the Droid," he said,
referring to the Verizon Wireless/Google rival to Apple's iPhone. There is no
compatibility with Apple's iPad, a multi-media tablet.
The company is continuing talks with other affiliates about how the service
rolls-out nationally to other cable systems and through satellite operators.
HBO programming is also available via Apple's iTunes platform and management
said a downloading from HBOGO.com is an option is under discussion. As for
whether Hulu and HBO might team up, that prospect appeared to be far from
likely. On that question Kessler said: "No, we are focused on
conversations with the affiliates
How long programming remains on the site varies, though if HBO is airing
episode seven of a series, then typically the previous six will be available,
the company said today. Occasionally, the site will offer HBO's entire back
catalogue of a particular service. Customers will be able to see The Wire
and will eventually be able to see every episode of The Sopranos.
Another benefit of the HBOGO.com site, shows will be available one hour after
the start time of the linear TV broadcast; so at 10
p.m. for a 9 p.m. start
time. That's much faster than the availability on HBO On Demand which offers
shows 24 hours after their initial debut.
The site is also working on programming exclusives, "We'll experiment with
HBOGO in terms of scheduling and a programming model. There may be certain
shows that we might premiere on HBOGO first."
Kessler added that HBO is now looking into the model for other countries such
as HBO's Eastern European operation, though rights are an issue.
HBO declined to put a figure on its investment in the technology and design of
the high-end site, but instead said it was a very necessary step in the
evolution of its brand. "We believe it is an investment that will pay-off.
The more we invest in the product, the longer we keep those subscribers,"