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Iain Glen, Peter Dinklage, Michiel Huisman in Game of Thrones (Season 5)
Iain Glen, Peter Dinklage, Michiel Huisman in Game of Thrones (Season 5) Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

HBO Now Is a Flop

Feb 10, 2016

When it comes to HBO Now, viewers are saying, "Maybe later." Parent company Time Warner has signed up just 800,000 subscribers for the standalone streaming service since it launched in April, well short of the 1 million to 2 million analysts expected.

HBO CEO Richard Plepler defended the slow start during Time Warner's quarterly conference call Wednesday, saying that new production deals with celebrities like Jon Stewart would attract more subscribers in the future as HBO Now builds out its content library. HBO Now also isn't (yet) available through Xbox and Playstation gaming consoles, Ars Technica added; opening up those outlets in the future might give the network access to an otherwise-untapped audience of cord-cutters. But back in late 2014, Plepler was predicting that HBO Now could have as many as 5 million subscribers.

Some analysts wondered if HBO Now's price of around $15 a month was holding back greater adoption, but Plepler dismissed that concern, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We think our premium price makes sense, and we have no plans right now to change it," he said. By comparison, Netflix has 75 million subscribers, Business Insider pointed out, and its most popular streaming-only plan is around $10 a month.

In October, Plepler blamed pay-TV distributors like Comcast for not pushing HBO Now subscriptions to customers, according to Variety. "Some of our partners are not as skilled at that, and I think that’s myopic on their part... Why not take that product, make it part of the package and share the revenue with us?" he said.

Between Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, as well as streaming services from tech companies like Google and Apple, would-be cord cutters have a lot of options today, so it's possible that HBO Now just isn't a top priority for them yet. Plepler is likely hoping that this spring's new season of Game of Thrones will bring a lot of fans out of the woodwork who are willing to pay $15 a month to find out if Winter Is Coming.

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