With Verizon mobile deal, HBO just got an extra 109.5 million prospects

By Jim O'Neill on Jul 29 2015 at 8:15 AM
With Verizon mobile deal, HBO just got an extra 109.5 million prospects

You know the 10 million additional potential customers HBO hoped to reach in the United States with its over-the-top play, HBO Now? Well, it just got a hell of a bump from Verizon, which just announced the OTT service will be available not only to its FiOS broadband customers but also to its more than 109.5 million wireless customers when its new mobile TV service launches later this summer.

“Our customers want choice in accessing premium content when and where they desire, on a variety of devices,” said Ben Grad, executive director of content strategy and acquisition for Verizon. “HBO Now brings compelling content and choice to Verizon broadband customers today – and exciting possibilities for HBO content within Verizon’s pending mobile video service.”

Verizon, which has about 9.2 million broadband subscribers, joins Apple TV and Cablevision in offering the OTT service to fixed line broadband users, and joins Dish Network’s Sling TV in offering a mobile version. Verizon Wireless has more than 109.5 million subscribers, both prepaid and postpaid, with nearly 92% of them being smartphones.

HBO chief Richard Plepler last October said the decision to bring HBO to users without a pay-TV service was an effort to reach some 10 million households that didn’t have a tradition pay-TV subscription.

The deal with Verizon takes that bid to a whole new level and offers HBO a scale that it’s never had, certainly not through a single portal.

But Verizon’s mobile TV bid, called Go90, is already off to a somewhat rocky start. Originally expected to launch early this summer, it’s just getting going on a shakedown beta launch that might bring it to a wider audience in the next eight weeks. Maybe.

Verizon has had a far more difficult time lining up content deals than it expected, and so far has no major network support. It does – like Sling TV – have a deal with Scripps for HGTV and the Food Network, as well as a deal with Disney for ESPN.

HBO Now gives it a much better chance at having enough weight to sway some users, depending on the price. Sling TV offers HBO Now for $15 a month, aong with its $20 base price for service.

Verizon, hoever, reportedly is planning to use a more hybrid approach to its service, eschewing a pure SVOD play for a combination based on sponsored content, traditional ad-supported and pay-per-view. Will HBO Now be a traditional SVOD service?

Curiouser and curiouser. It may be heading down a rabbit hole into which confused customers won’t follow.

Another part of the delay in launching the Go90 service may also be concerns Verizon has about the flood of data onto its network. It obviously doesn’t want to be in the same boat as Sling TV was when it launched HBO Now just in time for the Game of Thrones season premiere this spring, bringing with it a flood of viewers that swamped the service.

Stay tuned.

Follow me on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn

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