HBO will unbundle from cable TV in 2015, but CEO hints at internet bundles

HBO will finally offer its HBO Go service to customers without a TV subscription next year: HBO Chairman and CEO Richard Plepler said at an investor meeting Wednesday that the company will offer a stand-alone streaming service in 2015. Pepler quoted ten million broadband-only homes as the main reason for this move, adding:

That is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped. It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO. So, in 2015, we will launch a stand-alone, over-the-top, HBO service in the United States.

Pepler’s remarks were scarce on details, as he didn’t say anything about the available content or the monthly price of the service. However, Pepler did say that the company will work with current partners and “explore models with new partners” for the service. Those may be first hints as to how HBO is approaching this space, and how an unbundled [company]HBO[/company] Go will differ from [company]Netflix[/company].

In the past, HBO executives have time and again said that they’re not willing to unbundle because they value the relationship with TV operators. Under its current model, HBO doesn’t have to worry about signing up, billing or retaining customers directly — all of this is handled by TV operators like Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

Some of these operators have in the past few months experimented with basic cable bundles that include HBO to offer consumers a package for roughly $40 that still gets them Game of Thrones. It’s possible that HBO would continue to sell its “unbundled” plan through ISPs rather than signing up customers on the web, with the difference that consumers would be able to sign up just for HBO and internet, and not need to rent a cable box, or add local channels they may not watch or want to pay for.

Update: Netflix’s stock fell on the news of HBO entering the standalone streaming business. Netflix is also announcing its earnings later today, so we’ll see how the streaming giant is taking the news of its new competitor.
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