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HBO CEO Richard Plepler Consulted Political Pollster Before Launching HBO Now

HBO Now hasn't destroyed the pay-tv biz.


Before HBO launched its Internet-delivered HBO Now streaming service, it took an unusual step: It hired a political pollster.

Chief Executive Richard Plepler said at the WSJDLive conference in Laguna Beach, Calif., that he asked the pollster to treat HBO as he would a political candidate and assess its chances of winning over undecided consumers if the network offered its programming in a new way.

“We think there are 10 to 15 million additional homes out there that want HBO,” Plepler said. “Our job is to make our network available to those people.”

Plepler said he has been “very pleased” with the reception of the over-the-top HBO Now service, which launched exclusively on Apple TV and is now available through other Internet-connected devices. He said the offering has allowed the network of “Game of Thrones” and other high-end programming to reach a millennial audience.

“I don’t have to tell this audience that millennials are fast cutting the cord,” Plepler said. “We just said to ourselves, ‘We want to be available where, when and how people want our service.’”

Plepler rejected the notion that the Internet offering has cannibalized the traditional pay TV business. Instead, he’s talking to cable operators such as Comcast and Charter-Time Warner Cable about offering the standalone HBO Now product to their broadband-only customers.

“They have millions and millions of broadband-only customers,” Plepler said. “We’re saying, ‘Why wouldn’t you want to take a product like HBO, which helps people preserve their broadband … and make it a part of your product, and share the revenue with us?'”

Plepler rejected what he called the “canard” of HBO’s rivalry with Netflix. He said “99 percent” of the Netflix subscribers also subscribe to HBO.

“These are entertainment junkies,” Plepler said. “As long as we deliver good product, they’ll be subscribers.”

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