HBO on Wednesday announced a partnership with Verizon to deliver streaming content to the telecom's FiOS TV customers. The deal introduces Verizon customers to HBO's online destination for video programming, HBOGO.com, which offers HBO programming.
Here's the catch: It's not available to all FiOS TV customers. Only those who also subscribe to HBO will receive the promised free, unlimited online access to HBO programming on demand from any U.S. location with a broadband connection. Would-be viewers also have to be subscribers to both FiOS TV and FiOS Internet.
Both Verizon and HBO appear to be looking for ways to add value to their subscriber base and stem churn rates in a down economy. With HBOGO, Shawn Strickland, vice president of consumer strategy and planning for Verizon, said mutual customers have the "convenience of accessing their programming in more ways and in more places."
HBOGO vs Netflix
Some are comparing HBOGO to Netflix. Netflix has 12 million subscribers, making it the world's largest subscription service streaming movies and TV episodes over the Internet. For $8.99 a month, Netflix members can watch unlimited TV episodes streamed to their TVs and computers and get unlimited DVDs delivered to their homes without late fees.
"Netflix is becoming more competitive with HBO generally, if you look at the streaming service and the quick turnaround on DVDs and the fact that they get DVDs before HBO gets the movies," said Colin Dixon, a senior IPTV analyst at The Diffusion Group. "Netflix is beginning to look more like a premium movie service like HBO."
Indeed, HBOGO doesn't directly compare. It's not sold as a separate service and only Verizon FiOS TV customers can access it. Even if HBO expands to other telecoms and wireless carriers, the model still relies on HBOGO as a way to offer existing subscribers additional ways to view the same content rather than attracting customers to the mobile, on-demand streaming service.
Also, while Netflix has hundreds of movies, HBOGO is launching with "over 600 hours of programming," HBO said. HBOGO aims to complement HBO On Demand with four times more viewing choices among HBO's original series, HBO Films, miniseries, documentaries, HBO Sports, and blockbuster movies. HBOGO also includes exclusive and bonus materials, soundtracks and cast information.
"I don't think this is going to garner HBO a great deal more subscribers," Dixon said. "It may stop a few from getting rid of the service, but I see this as more of a defensive play for HBO and Verizon FiOS than a direct new market offering that's going to draw lots of new subscribers."
With HBOGO, FiOS TV customers who subscribe to HBO can watch programming from a PC or Mac computer via a browser-based application. HBOGO supports Verizon subaccounts and allows up to three simultaneous users from the same household. Users can customize their experience through multiple browsing and viewing options and have the ability to restrict content with parental controls.
HBOGO lets subscribers create a Watchlist in which bookmarked content can be stored for later viewing. The list alerts viewers when new episodes of bookmarked television content arrive.
HBOGO joins Verizon FiOS TV's existing lineup, which includes more than 560 digital channels with up to 138 HD channels and about 18,000 monthly video-on-demand titles. FiOS offers next-generation interactive services, including an advanced interactive media guide, social TV, news and entertainment widgets, remote DVR management, and multi-room DVR.