HBO Now Could Expand to Warner and Turner Content

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HBO CEO Richard Plepler says the company is in talks with other distributors — including Amazon — and expects to have more deals for its streaming service by the end of the year.

HBO chief executive Richard Plepler raised the possibility on Wednesday that HBO Now, the recently-launched streaming service, could expand its content to include non-HBO television and film programming.

"Our cousins at Warner and Turner could be involved in it," said Plepler on a conference call with analysts after the release of Time Warner's first quarter earnings.

HBO Now was a very hot topic on the analyst call, which played Game of Thrones music before starting.

During the Q&A sections, Plepler was arguably as popular as Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes and fielded queries about whether HBO Now would be expanding — not merely in content, but also in reach.

Plepler says he expects more deals by the end of the year and let slip that HBO and Amazon are "in discussions about the size and scope of our relationship."

He gently shrugged off a question about the performance of HBO Now so far — saying it was too early to have much reliable data. But he's clearly thrilled at early returns and also argues that it vindicates the position that having a streaming service takes nothing away from viewers watching HBO in more-traditional ways. He says that HBO is "seeing absolutely no intrusion into people in the ecosystem. It's all additive. We always said it would be an expansion of pie, and that's what it is."

He and Bewkes spent some time defending the notion that streaming isn't cannibalizing cable. Upon today's announcement that Hulu had won the rights for Seinfeld, for instance, one analyst wondered whether that would hurt Turner, which has been showing re-runs for years. Bewkes deflected, but did offer his opinion that evolving the ecoystem is important and that Seinfeld on Hulu made sense.

That noted, Bewkes offered a bit of a surprise, doubting whether binge-viewing would become an important model for the company's properties. In fact, he slipped into a Jack Nicholson impression and said, "You don't want us to binge. You can't handle the binge!"

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