Netflix, Showtime, HBO set OTT strategies in motion

The second half of 2015 is bringing a flurry of announcements as over-the-top video providers--both new to the segment and established alike--put into motion strategies to improve their competitive edge. That includes Showtime, which, like HBO before it, launched its new standalone OTT service, Showtime Anytime, on July 7--five days ahead of its original launch date.

Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX), meanwhile, has shifted into full gear on its original movies initiative. The SVOD provider announced a four-film slate for the next three quarters, leading off with Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba and directed by Cary Fukunaga. The film premieres on Netflix worldwide on Oct. 16.

Adam Sandler's first Netflix-commissioned film, The Ridiculous Six, will premiere on the SVOD service on Dec. 11. Pee Wee's Big Holiday will drop next March. And the much-publicized Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend is now scheduled to premiere simultaneously in IMAX theaters, in China, and on Netflix sometime "in Q1 2016," according to a Netflix release.

Meantime, HBO put out a release noting that some of its shows "hit record numbers in the beginning of 2015" for viewership. The network released combined viewing numbers across its platforms, including its linear channel, DVR viewership, HBO On Demand, HBO GO and HBO Now.

Its top hit Game of Thrones "eclipsed season 4's record breaking performance," the network said, with season 5 recording 19.8 million viewers so far and on track to break 20 million--making it HBO's most-watched series ever. Silicon Valley brought in 6 million viewers for season 2, up from 5.8 million in its premiere season. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver recorded 14 percent growth in season 2, with an average of 4.6 million viewers per episode.

It's a different tack for HBO, whose former chief Chris Albrecht (now head of Starz) told investors in January that measurement wasn't as big of a concern in the early days of HBO's original series strategy, back in the late '80s.

"[Michael Fuchs, then-CEO] said, 'How do we know they're going to be successful?' I said, 'We'll say they're successful. Who's gonna know? We'll just keep ordering them.' I think there's a little of that going on, in places where there's not measurement," Albrecht said at the Citi 2015 Global Internet, Media & Telecommunications Conference.

With deeper metrics available thanks to IP-based video platforms, and significant competition looming from Showtime, HBO is opening up a bit about just how well its original series are performing. It hasn't yet broken down subscribership for its newest platform, HBO Now, but BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield estimates that the provider has signed up at least 850,000 subscribers to the $15 per month standalone service.

Meantime, no word yet on Verizon's upcoming OTT service. The carrier announced it will launch its mobile-first video streaming product sometime in the second half of 2015.

For more:
- see FierceCable's Showtime coverage
- see this Netflix release
- and this HBO release

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