Thanks to a steady increase in the quality of streaming platforms and the quality of the content available, streaming as an alternative to cable TV is definitely growing, but it might not be growing as fast as some thought.
In Time Warner’s earnings call yesterday, HBO CEO Richard Plepler first said that the company had a “terrific year” and point to subscriber growth of 2.7 million new customers, a number that included HBO Now. He then went on to say that the cable-free streaming service currently has 800,000 paying subscribers, less than the 1 million some analysts had estimated.
Plepler was quick to say that this number was only the beginning. “We’re not yet out on two major platforms, PlayStation and Xbox,” Plepler said, adding that these platforms account for 20 percent of its viewer numbers on HBO Go, the company’s other streaming service, which does require a cable subscription to use.
The CEO added that the company hadn’t yet added content that it thinks “particularly suited for those platforms.” Plepler pointed to upcoming content from Vice, Jon Stewart, and ex-ESPN commentator Bill Simmons.
HBO Now is currently available on the Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick in terms of streaming boxes, as well as iOS and Android devices, Fire tablets, and the Web. That’s a fair amount of platforms, but support has been added slowly since the service’s launch in April of last year, which could have some part in its relatively slow adoption. It’s also worth pointing out that HBO is available to cord-cutters via Sling TV, which HBO doesn’t count in its HBO Now subscriber numbers.
While HBO Now launched just in time for season five of Game of Thrones, the service was exclusive to Apple TV and iOS at the time. That, combined with its unproven nature, might have led potential customers to be wary.
Considering that Game of Thrones has been the most pirated show on television, it’s easy to assume that many of its viewers don’t want to watch via cable subscription. With HBO Now more widely available, the series sixth season premiere on April 24 might see a sudden jump in subscribers.