HBO Back In Broadband Game; Launches Service With TW Cable

hbobroadbandTime (NYSE: TWX) Warner-owned HBO is jumping back into broadband programming, but in a different way than usual: HBO On Broadband is the service which will, for starters, be available to Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) customers in Green Bay and Milwaukee in Wisconsin. The new service is free, but users must subscribe to both HBO and the TWC’s RoadRunner Broadband service…after that users can access the 375 or so titles available, for download on their PCs, reports Variety. Among the shows available will be select episodes of “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City,” along with recent segments of “Flight of the Conchords” and “Real Time With Bill Maher,” among others. Also, the service will feature HBO Films, theatricals, and comedy specials. HBO’s East Coast feed will also be streamed live on the service.

Programming will hit the broadband service at the same time as the linear HBO channel and will expire (and be removed from the user’s hard drive) after four weeks. The app used to play the video on PC can be set up for up to five user accounts, which is a nice touch.

It is a start for the cable net, which fired its digital team in LA last year, and decided to focus on its popular cable VOD service instead. For this new service, there are no specific rollout plans, so seems like it is still in experimentation phase. Beyond sister company TWC, it is having distribution talks with Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) — some expected an announcement at CES — and others.

The strategy is similar to ESPN360, the broadband service from ESPN (NYSE: DIS) distributed through cable MSOs’ broadband services.

Updated: USAT: Usually, about six episodes will be offered at any one time, but for one series every month, every episode ever produced will be available…Compared with HBO On Demand, a subscription VOD service that reaches about one-third of HBO’s 29 million homes, the broadband service offers more than twice as much programming.

THR: HBO on Broadband won’t transmit HD content; video is encoded at 1.3 megabits per second, still a relatively high-quality picture.