HBO Signs Exclusive Licensing Deal with Canada's Bell Media

Helen Sloan/Courtesy of HBO

The Canadian media giant is now home to all HBO programming on all subscription platforms, keeping 'Game of Thrones' and 'True Detective' away from Netflix Canada.

HBO Now, the U.S. cable channel's streaming service, won't be coming to Canada any time soon.

In a major shakeup of the Canadian pay TV business, Bell Media on Thursday unveiled a new long-term licensing deal with HBO that makes the broadcaster the new exclusive home of series like Game of Thrones and True Detective into the next decade.

Bell Media's new deal with HBO for the first time hands it all rights for current HBO series. Bell Media also plans to expand its Eastern Canadian pay TV channel, The Movie Network, nationally just as rival Corus Entertainment gets set to close down its Movie Central pay TV service in Western Canada.

The Canadian media player earlier this year signed a separate long-term licensing deal with Showtime parent CBS to bring the Showtime brand and exclusive access to hit shows like The Affair, Ray Donovan and Penny Dreadful to The Movie Network and Bell's newly launched SVOD service CraveTV.

Now Bell Media will be able to exploit that Showtime deal nationally once it extends The Movie Network to Western Canada. Corus is to receive CAN$211 million (US$159million) from Bell Media for closing up shop in Western Canada to make way for The Movie Network nationally.

Terms of the exclusive HBO deal were not disclosed, but Bell Media will be able to exclusively deliver all current, past, and library HBO programming across linear, on-demand, and over-the-top platforms as the sole operator of HBO Canada. Bell Media and HBO also inked a new original co-production partnership to jointly create premium, made-in-Canada series for the international market.

Several projects are already in development from indie producers like Inverted Pictures/Artists Studio and Rhombus Media. "Together, we secured a deal that will allow both our businesses to continue to grow and evolve," Charles Schreger, president, programming sales at HBO, said Thursday in a statement.

"We are delighted to have the opportunity to bring all HBO programming to Canadians on whatever platform they choose,” added Bell Media president Mary Ann Turcke in her own statement. Bell Media is also to make its online streaming service CraveTV available to all Canadians starting in January 2016 as it continues to fend off competition from Netflix Canada.

The broadcaster is stepping up its partnership with HBO after a year ago acquiring the exclusive national multi-platform rights for the entire off-air library of HBO programming, now offered on CraveTV. That long-term licensing agreement, similar to the multi-year deal HBO did with Amazon Prime, included 850 hours of scripted programming like The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm on top of HBO movies, documentaries and stand-up and music specials.

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