Time Warner Inc. CEO Jeff Bewkes on Thursday shot down the idea of selling HBO online in the U.S. without the TV channel packages it is usually bundled with.
On its own, HBO might cost U.S. consumers in the range of $10 to $15 a month, but TV distributors usually bundle the offering together with other packages that include 100 channels or more, which can raise one's monthly bill well above $100. Selling HBO by itself would likely increase the number of subscribers and benefit Time Warner, but it could upset its TV distribution partners, like Comcast and DirecTV, who use the premium channel to entice people to buy large channel packages.
In the U.S., Time Warner sells HBO through cable, satellite and telecom operators that reach about 94 percent of the population, Bewkes said. About 30 million households now pay for HBO, while the other 70 million could get it if they wanted to pay extra for it. Right now, Time Warner is pushing its distributors to sell the channel more effectively, he said.
However, Bewkes didn't completely rule out a so-called "a la carte" offering of HBO in the future.
"If, in the long run, there's a clear development of enough people that need an a la carte offering of HBO, we'll look at it," Bewkes said. "It's not the main opportunity now."
The company will start offering HBO online in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark next month. Bewkes said that is because HBO couldn't reach many people there if it were only offered through TV providers, but it can reach more through the Internet. That's not the case in the U.S., he told investors at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference.
HBO is home to shows including "Game of Thrones" and "True Blood." It also carries recently released movies from Warner Bros., Universal Pictures and 20th Century Fox.