HBO giving Brits a passport to VOD

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BARCELONA, Spain -- HBO continued its global expansion program Tuesday, announcing the launch of a U.K. subscription VOD service that will roll out in April or May, HBO president of programming distribution and international Simon Sutton said Tuesday.

The move is part of a major expansion program that aims to give HBO a branded product in each of the top 10 global markets.

"This is a model we'd like to apply to other countries across Western Europe," Sutton said.

The service will be carried by broadband pay TV operators Virgin Media, BT Vision and Tiscali Television and will offer exclusive VOD access to between 50 and 70 hours of content with such shows as "The Sopranos," "Entourage," "Six Feet Under" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" as well as a range of documentaries and series.

It will mean that VOD rights to HBO content will no longer be available to other programrs such as Channel Four or the BBC, which also are launching VOD products.

HBO has no plans to roll out either a U.K. linear television or a broadband proposition with pay TV market leader British Sky Broadcasting because the digital pay broadcaster does not have the necessary two-way interactive infrastructure.

Sutton said the service hoped to emulate the success of HBO on-demand, which has 10 million subscribers in the U.S.

"It grows out of the experience we have had in the U.S., where the on-demand service has exclusive content," Sutton said.

With launch dates to be determined by each of the distributors, the HBO VOD service will be made available on BT Vision, Tiscali TV and Virgin Media. The service will provide at least 50 hours of HBO's original programming upon its full rollout, including series, miniseries, documentaries and comedy specials.

In a separate development, Universal Music U.K. announced a VOD music video deal with BT Vision, giving its customers on-demand access to content from such artists as the Killers, Razorlight, U2 and Nelly Furtado.
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