HBO CTO Otto Berkes Leaves as Cable Net Enlists MLB Digital for Streaming Platform

Otto Berkes - P 2014
Courtesy of HBO

Otto Berkes - P 2014

The cable network is prepping a standalone over-the-top service

HBO's chief technology officer is leaving as the cable network brings in outside help from Major League Baseball Advanced Media on its upcoming standalone streaming service. 

Otto Berkes announced his move in a memo to staff on Tuesday. "HBO's management decided to partner with a third party to assist HBO in bringing our OTT service to market in 2015," he wrote. "This is a change in direction from what I planned with HBO, and the approach will not utilize my overall capabilities. Therefore, I feel that this is the right time for me to move on from HBO so that I am able to fully pursue my passion building world-class technology teams, products and businesses." 

Berkes, one of the original Xbox founders, joined HBO in 2011 as senior vp digital products and was promoted to CTO in 2013 after the departure of Bob Zitter. One of Berkes' roles was leading a team working on in-house development of an over-the-top streaming service, dubbed "Project Maui." HBO CEO Richard Plepler announced plans to launch a standalone streaming product in 2015 at Time Warner's Oct. 15 investor day.

But HBO canceled the project in favor of a deal with MLBAM, which powers the streaming for a number of partners, including ESPN. A memo from Mark Thomas, HBO's senior vp technology program management, and Drew Angeloff, senior vp digital products, that was first published in Fortune explains that the decision was made "based on an assessment of risk and scope of the product needed to meet HBO's short-term business needs for April 2015." 

The memo continues: "Maui was a way to get us into market faster with a less than perfect solution — the external partner will take that burden, allowing us to focus on the forward-looking technologies we are creating for HBO Go."

An HBO spokesman issued the following statement. "Project Maui was one of several options on the table to accomplish the undertaking of offering a standalone HBO product for next year. It is not uncommon to use outside resources in this type of project. This in no way impacts our plans, and we're excited to bring an over-the-top HBO product to market next year."