UPDATED. It looks like HBO is stepping up its TV Everywhere initiative to make on-demand videos from its cable network available … everywhere. According to a teaser video posted on HBO’s YouTube channel, the programmer will soon launch mobile apps that will bring its HBO Go online video service to the iPad and Google Android mobile devices.
According to the YouTube video, streaming mobile apps from HBO could be available in the next few weeks. The video teases “05.02.11” as the date that these features will launch, although HBO has yet to respond to a request for confirmation on that release date.
Rolling out streaming availability on devices like the iPad is just an extension of HBO’s ongoing TV Everywhere strategy, which will enable pay TV subscribers that pay for its premium cable network to get additional access to on-demand videos online. The HBO Go service officially launched last February with 600 hours worth of on-demand content. HBO recently upped the ante by making every episode of every scripted series available through the service, boosting the number of available titles to 1,400. Now HBO is taking those video assets mobile. According to the video narrator:
“Imagine a place where you can enjoy all your favorite HBO series, movies and more, right at the tip of your finger. Introducing HBO Go, the new streaming service that gives you instant and unlimited access to the best HBO has to offer. Get every episode of every season of your favorite HBO shows, plus hit movies and much more — all free to HBO subscribers and all streaming on your iPad, laptop or smartphone wherever you are. HBO Go — it’s HBO, anywhere.”
It’s clear that the iPad will be the big selling point for many HBO subscribers, but it appears that the HBO Go will also be available on Android mobile devices as well. While the YouTube video doesn’t say that HBO Go will work on any particular smartphone or mobile OS, it previews the app running on what looks to be a Motorola Droid X, according to GigaOM mobile guru Kevin Tofel.
This isn’t the only way HBO subscribers can view the on-demand service on mobile devices like the iPad. Pay TV operators like Comcast have already made HBO Go titles available through their own mobile applications. But creating a streaming HBO Go app will allow the programmer to reach a larger group of users across a number of distributors. It will also enable HBO to keep its brand front and center and maintain a relationship with consumers, who generally pay cable, satellite and IPTV providers for the service.
The HBO Go service also gives it a way to compete with services like Netflix, which is now available on more than 250 consumer electronics devices. While Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes has maintained that HBO has no current plans to go direct to consumer, the buildout of the HBO Go service could give it the option to do so if TV Everywhere rollouts don’t happen quickly enough. In response to an analyst asking if HBO could market its online offering direct to consumers, Bewkes said on the company’s third quarter earnings call:
“[O]n the question you raised about HBO going direct, we do have the ability to do that. And it’s not something that we have decided to do today because… we have a very good relationship… [with] all the different distributors… If that doesn’t work well, or speedily enough, then we have the option of adding a direct sale of HBO.”
Update: Time Warner has confirmed by email that its mobile app release will begin May 2. A spokesperson wrote that devices will include “iPad, iPhone, a number of Android smartphones 2.1 and above. Not all however on May 2 though more will roll out.”