HBO to launch web streaming service

New standalone service will allow users to stream HBO shows such as Games of Thrones without paying for cable television

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The Independent Online

HBO has unveiled plans to launch a web-only streaming service in the US from 2015, in a move likely to push already dwindling US cable subscription numbers even lower.

The introduction of the new standalone service means viewers will now be able to watch popular HBO shows such as Games of Thrones and Girls online, without having to pay for a costly cable TV bundle.   

Speaking at an investor presentation held by parent company Time Warner, chief executive Richard Plepler avoided expanding on pricing information, but did say the company will be launching the service in two other unnamed countries, before looking to deliver it globally.

He insisted the streaming service will be complementary to cable TV and targeted primarily at the 10 million US homes with internet but without a pay-television service.

 “That is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped,” he said. “It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO…We will work with our current partners. And, we will explore models with new partners.”

 

He added: “All in, there are 80 million homes that do not have HBO and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them.”

The growth of low-cost streaming sites such as Netflix and Amazon has disturbed the US pay-tv market, with “cable cutters” – people who leave their cable subscriptions to watch TV on the internet – becoming increasingly common.

After peaking in 2012, the number of American cable subscribers slumped by over a quarter of a million in 2013.

HBO already launched a streaming app called HBO Go in 2010 however it’s only open to its cable subscribers. The network currently has 30 million subscribers in the US compared to 37 million at Netflix. 

Netflix, the makers of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, have slashed its subscriber growth forecast going into the fourth quarter and yesterday reported it added fewer new users in the third quarter than previously expected citing a $1 price hike that was announced in May.

HBO will need to find the right balance between a price which is competitive with the $10 or so per month charged by current streaming sites, but which is not so low that users drop their cable subscriptions, damaging the firm’s revenue from that part of the business.

News of HBO’s new direction comes in the wake of Time Warner shareholders giving the go-ahead last week for a merger with larger rival Comcast.

On Thursday morning, American television network CBS, known its The Big Bang Theory and CSI crime series, said it would introduce its own streaming service called "CBS All Access" for $5.99 a month.

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