HBO pushes into Northern Europe ahead of Netflix; sparks fly

Two weeks after Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) said it would be expanding its international operations into Northern Europe, HBO announced HBO Nordic, bringing its programming to Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland on a standalone basis without a pay-TV subscription for Internet and tablet users. It will start in October, ahead of Netflix, which had announced a late-year launch.

HBO Nordic is expected to cost about $12.50 and will mark the first time the pay-TV channel and Netflix compete head-to-head for the same online customers. HBO has also signed an agreement with telco TeliaSonera, and Canal+ (known in the Nordic region as C More) also has a license to show HBO content.

The big news, though, was that HBO would start up in the area ahead of Netflix. The move did not go unnoticed. In a story reported by GigaOm, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings dripped sarcasm with a Facebook entry: "Excited to see HBO joining us in offering standalone streaming service in Scandinavia … what about the USA? We thought the first match-up would be in Albania."

HBO Nordic CEO Herve Payan defended the move in a statement reported by BroadbandTVNews.

"We saw a rapid change in Nordic TV consumption these past years. Our target group is younger and more urban than the existing premium pay-TV subscribers and they consume TV on multiple screens, particularly on computers, smartphones and tablets. Most of them associate HBO with best-in-class series. We view this as a unique opportunity for HBO to grow digital pay TV subscriptions in the region," he said.

HBO original content such as "Boardwalk Empire," "The Newsroom," "Game of Thrones," "True Blood," "Veep" and "Girls," along with feature films, will be made available immediately after U.S. debuts, the story said.

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