HBO shoots back at Netflix with plans for standalone streaming video service

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Good news for Game of Thrones fanatics who don't have a cable subscription: HBO says it will offer a standalone streaming video service some time next year.

HBO Chairman and CEO Richard Plepler announced the plans for a standalone service during an investor meeting on Wednesday. “That is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped,” Plepler said. “It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO.”

Plepler didn't reveal any details about the actual service, such as how much it will cost and what it will include. He merely said that HBO will work with current partners and explore models with new partners. “All in, there are 80 million homes that do not have HBO and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them,” he said.

HBO already offers a streaming service called HBO Go. It includes every episode of most HBO original series, along with a selection of movie and specials, but it's only available to people who already get the channel through their cable or satellite providers. The company, which is a subsidiary of Time Warner, also partners with Amazon to bring some programming to Amazon Prime subscribers, but only for episodes that are at least three years old. It's unclear whether the new service will be a standalone version of HBO Go or something different.

The story behind the story: Fans of HBO's original series have spent years pleading for a standalone service, only to be repeatedly shut down in public statements by the company. But with cable subscriptions on the decline, and Netflix now beating HBO in subscribers and subscriber revenue, the pressure to respond may be coming from more than just fans. It's telling that HBO made the announcement during an investor conference, though it also suggests that the company hasn't nailed down its streaming strategy just yet.

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