Netflix executives often benchmark their growth and aspirations against HBO, the Time Warner-owned premium-cable pioneer of “event shows” such as The Sopranos and Game of Thrones. At this point, Netflix’s unofficial motto is: We want to be HBO before they become us. Now it appears as if the cable-TV executives have heard enough about the Silicon Valley upstart’s torrid subscriber growth and want to give us something else to talk about.
For the first time, Time Warner has broken out HBO’s own, impressive growth figures in the company’s earnings report. HBO, it turns out, boasts both stronger profitability and a vast lead in international subscribers over Netflix. The nearly 2 million U.S. subscribers HBO added last year mark the highest such increase in 17 years, according to the report, with subscription revenue up 4 percent, to $4.9 billion. Operating income jumped 8 percent in the last year, to $1.68 billion.