HBO Now on defensive after finally confirming 800K sub count

HBO CEO Richard Plepler finally confirmed the subscriber base for his company's 9-month-old direct-to-consumer platform, HBO Now, pegging the number at 800,000.

The disclosure, made during parent company Time Warner Inc.'s fourth-quarter earnings call, resulted in consternation from investment analysts, many of whom had pegged their forecast much higher. 

For example, in late July of last year, just three months after the service launched, MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson said that HBO Now might have had as many as 1.9 million customers. 

Responding to one critical investment analyst's question, "I wouldn't say only 800,000 subs," Plepler said during the conference call. "We're just getting started … I think we're going to make a lot of progress."

Plepler said he's confident that new programming deals with former ESPN impresario Bill Simmons and ex-Daily Show star John Stewart will hold specific benefits for the streaming platform. 

The deals with the high-profile performers call for programming to be created across platforms, but both arrangements include elements that are exclusive to digital. 

Investors didn't react favorably to Time Warner's fourth-quarter performance, with the company's stock cratering 6.2 percent after the earnings report, wiping out all its recent gains. 

For more:
- read this New York Post story
- read this Re/code story

Related articles:
MoffettNathanson: HBO Now has as many as 1.9M subs, Sling TV has up to 200,000
HBO Now may have as many as 1M subs, analyst says

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