Apple, Google Said to Be in Talks With HBO to Carry Web Channel

The Apple Inc. "Apple TV" set top box is displayed for sale at the Apple store on 5th Avenue in New York. Apple may be the first company to agree to distribute HBO’s Web-only service because HBO’s negotiations with its longtime cable partners are more complex. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

HBO, ramping up plans for an a-la-carte version of its premium channel, is in talks with at least five companies including Apple Inc. and Google Inc. to distribute the Web-only service, according to people familiar with the matter.

HBO’s current streaming channel, HBO Go, is already available on Apple TV but only to pay-TV subscribers. HBO’s new service, tentatively called HBO Now, would let consumers watch the channel via Apple TV without paying for a cable subscription, according to one of the people, who isn’t authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be named.

TiVo Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tom Rogers said in an interview Tuesday that his company, which makes digital video recorders, is in discussions with HBO about distributing the service.

HBO -- home to such shows as “Game of Thrones,” “Girls” and “True Detective” -- is in talks with other potential distributors, including Cox Communications Inc. and Cablevision Systems Corp., which sells high-speed Internet service in some markets, the person said.

Apple may be the first company to agree to distribute HBO’s Web-only service because HBO’s negotiations with its longtime cable partners are more complex, the person said. The price of a subscription to the Web service isn’t set but will likely cost the same as the cable channel, which is about $15 per month, the person said.

By offering its channel outside the cable bundle, HBO could prompt more consumers to cut the cord and threaten the TV ecosystem. The move pits HBO directly against online streaming service Netflix Inc., which has more than 57 million subscribers worldwide.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, declined to comment. HBO said in a statement: “When we have details to share, we will do so.” Cox, in an e-mailed statement, confirmed the talks with HBO, “but our distribution agreements have not changed.” Cablevision declined to comment while representatives for Google didn’t immediately respond.

10 Million Consumers

HBO Chief Executive Officer Richard Plepler has said he is looking to reach an estimated 10 million consumers who get Internet service but don’t subscribe to cable or satellite TV. Plepler has said he wants to work with HBO’s longtime cable distributors as well as new ones.

In October, HBO-parent Time Warner Inc. announced it would offer the streaming-video service this year, separate from the cable-TV bundle. Since then, New York-based HBO has provided few details on the service.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE