Imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery, so HBO just paid Netflix a big compliment. During Time Warner’s Q4 earnings call, company chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes and HBO CEO Richard Plepler discussed plans for the premium network moving forward, including some big moves straight out of Netflix’s playbook.
The highlights of the plan include a 50-percent increase in production over the course of 2016 and expanded global reach, according to Business Insider. The strategy absolutely mirrors that of Netflix: In December, the streamer’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, announced plans to double its slate of original series for 2016, and the company has been aggressively expanding its international presence in recent months. As of January, Netflix is available in virtually every major market aside from China.
Sarandos has been clear in the past that he believes original content is a smart investment because Netflix can distribute the content globally without having to worry about licensing. The programming can then be made available to a larger audience, and therefore (in theory) attract more fans — and more paying subscribers. Content that catches on in multiple markets then has the potential to give Netflix a bigger bang for its buck.
Time Warner and HBO seem to be convinced by Netflix’s thinking, and also aim to make HBO become “ecosystem agnostic,” in the words of Plepler. It’s great news for cord cutters; it means that HBO is embracing the fact that people are watching TV without cable subscriptions, whether that be on their computers, smartphones, smart TVs, etc.
So far, HBO’s recognition of this situation hasn’t yet translated into big numbers for its standalone streaming service — HBO Now has only amassed around 800,000 paying subscribers since launching last April — but Time Warner and HBO’s Netflix-inspired plan may make the difference. With Netflix having been unabashed about its own attempts to become like HBO over the years, it seems only fair that the network turn the tables.