HBO looks to expand online option overseas

The cable network sees more growth abroad for Internet-based service in countries where it doesn't have much of a pay-TV presence, says the Wall Street Journal.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read


HBO reportedly plans to expand its Web-based service to countries where it doesn't grab much in the way of sales through traditional cable subscriptions.

The cable network, which has offered itself via the Web in Nordic nations since 2012, is weighing a similar option for countries such as Japan and Turkey that have healthy broadband access, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The service would not require customers to subscribe to the cable network.

With subscriber growth slowing in the US, the company's attention on overseas markets may be a necessary strategy shift. HBO offers channels in 60 countries and licenses its programming in others, the Journal said. But in many nations, the company has no channels or makes little money from traditional subscribers.

One country likely excluded from Web-only consideration would be the United States. In the US, HBO already offers HBO Go for watching programs via the Internet. But HBO Go requires an HBO subscription.

Instead, the cable network wants to focus on countries that don't have a high level of pay-TV penetration. Since cable subscribers rank fewer in number and in dollars outside the US, HBO has less to lose there by experimenting with Web-based services for nonsubscribers.

Americans do have a minimal chance of benefiting from HBO's experimentation. Adding Web services internationally would give HBO more experience in that end of the business, noted the Journal. That could be valuable if the company should ever decide to introduce an Internet-based service for nonsubscribers in the US.

But what is the likelihood that a Web-only service would even land in the US? Don't hold your breath.