HBO chief Richard Plepler sprinkled some news in with his sales pitch to investors today at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference: The premium service has extended its licensing deal with Summit Entertainment through 2022, and plans to introduce its HBO Now stand-alone streaming service in Brazil and Argentina this year with partners.
HBO had already announced plans to go to Spain. In addition to the U.S., HBO has standalone streaming services in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Colombia, Mexico, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
To those who believe that Time Warner should spin off HBO, arguing that it would be a highly valued stock, Plepler says that growth plans show that his operation is “much stronger [as part of Time Warner] than we would be alone.”
HBO needs original programming to generate buzz and subscriptions. Plepler acknowledged that its outlays will rise, a big concern for Wall Street, but he says he’ll be spending “in a strategic way…capturing different audiences and different demos.” As an example, he talked up the reach of comedian John Oliver’s eye-opening takedown of Donald Trump this past Sunday. About “52 million people have seen it on Facebook, and 14 or 15 million saw it on YouTube,” Plepler noted. “That is an enormous commentary not just on John’s genius and talent but on our brand.”
HBO Now is “off to a good start” but “we have a long way to go,” Plepler said, adding that the online connection has already helped to attract talent such as Jon Stewart.
“Jon’s pitch was not to do a network show. Jon’s pitch was to do an HBO Now show. And the whole evolution of our Vice relationship, which will emerge into a daily news show, came because we have the opportunity on HBO Now to refresh it. Bill Simmons, whose show will be anchored on HBO, will have many dimensions to it.”
The creative community has been “coming in the door on a daily basis…Spike Lee just came to see me about an idea that he wouldn’t have had, had HBO Now not existed. [Steven] Soderberg, the same thing.”
Still, he says that investors shouldn’t overlook the impact of traditional movies from its licensing deals with Universal, Fox, Summit and corporate cousin Warner Bros. “Movies,” he said, “represent over 75% of viewing on HBO, 71% across all platforms, 62% of on demand usage, and 40% of our subscribers only watch movies.”