HBO's Plepler: Amazon deal was 'strategically' the right move, stays mum on OTT plans

Richard Plepler, CEO of pay-TV stalwart HBO, said that the company's content deal with Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) is not a departure from the company's long-standing position that people who want its content should subscribe to HBO.

"That's not true. We have always tried to monetize our library," he told Multichannel News in an interview this week. Plepler pointed out that some of its original content, such as The Sopranos, Sex and The City and Band of Brothers, has been syndicated to broadcast networks including A&E, TBS and History Channel.

The Amazon agreement "was strategically for us the right partner."

Plepler stayed coy on questions about the future of its second-screen product, HBO GO, saying it currently is an "enhanced product" that will help its partners--including distributors and MVPDs--build their value proposition. But he didn't give a clear "no" to the possibility of offering an all-OTT product to subscribers at some point in the future.

"What I think HBO GO will enable us to do is pivot in any direction we want to pivot in," he said in the interview.

Plepler has repeatedly stated that HBO GO will not be a standalone product: In March, he told the Los Angeles Times at the Game of Thrones premiere that exclusivity remains a key part of the company's business model.

By any measure, HBO's online alternative and its original programming have led to a significant jump in subscriber numbers, adding 2 million subs in 2013, its biggest annual growth in 17 years. Further, Plepler told MCN, the company expects to do very well this year, too, saying "we've exceeded where we thought we were going to be at this time of the year."

Plepler glossed over some of the sticking points to the HBO GO service, particularly its tendency to crash during the premieres and finales of popular shows like Game of Thrones and True Detective. He said only that the company's team of engineers is working "ferociously" to improve the service's capacity. He also downplayed the service's password-sharing woes, saying it's "not as extensive a problem as some of the public narrative would suggest" and carefully separating it from the issue of illegal downloads.

For more:
- Multichannel News has this interview (sub. req.)
- the L.A. Times has this story

Related articles:
Amazon, HBO sign exclusive multiyear content deal
Amazon video streams triple while sales climb 23 percent, but profits remain thin
3 reasons why Netflix has to raise prices in 2014
Hulu cracks down on VPN masking to block access by non-U.S. viewers