HBO Asia ushers in new direct-to-consumer era

HBO Asia looks like it’s up to a lot of good for the Year of the Pig, rolling out a multi-platform strategy that – among other elements – boosts direct-to-consumer access and payment options through Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store in Singapore, and adds all of HBO’s services onto Singtel’s TV and streaming platforms. 

The new era makes Singapore the only market in Asia where consumers can subscribe to HBO Go directly through Apple/Google.  

The new iteration of HBO Go costs S$13.98/US$10.36 a month for six live linear channels along with on-demand access to everything from Game of Thrones and Westworld to original Asian series Folklore and Miss Sherlock.

The app subscription allows two concurrent streams, up to 20 downloads at a time for offline viewing, and the ability to cast to TV screens via airplay. The app also premieres HBO originals at the same time as the U.S.  

HBO’s entre into the universe of standalone/direct-to-consumer apps in Singapore closes a two-decade era of exclusivity with StarHub, and ushers in a new world of consumer choice and experience.

HBO Asia’s official announcements this month about its redrawn Singapore map are contained to its venture with Singapore’s Singtel, which kicked off on Friday, 1 February, on the TV platform and will follow in March with a presence on Singtel’s aggregator app Cast. So far, the new App Store and Google Play store access is flying under the radar.

The Singtel deal covers HBO Asia’s six linear channels on Singtel TV and on linked app, Singtel TV Go. The bundle costs the same as the standalone app on Apple/Google stores. From 15 March, HBO Go will also be available through Singtel’s Cast, also for S$13.98/US$10.36. 

Cast offers multiple streaming apps, including Viu (S$6.90/US$5, no contract) and Hooq (S$7.90/US$5.85, no contract), along with its own channel/on-demand streaming bundles such as Variety Plus (S$14.90/US$11 no contract) and Sports Plus (S$49.90/US$37, no contract).

The reworked relationship with StarHub has been brewing since last year, when renewal negotiations were rumoured to be following StarHub’s policy of lower content/affiliate fees. 

Just before Christmas, StarHub said it was slashing the price of HBO channel packs by between 13.5% and 27.4% from 31 January, putting the smaller pack in the S$14/US$10 a month range (a cut of S$5/US$3.65) and the full pack at S$25/US$18 a month (S$3.90/US$2.85 lower).

The price for the standalone HBO Go service, bought through StarHub, used to be S$19.90/US$14.50 a month. This has now dropped to S$13.98/US$10, bringing it in line with the competition. 

Article appeared in ContentAsia's eNewsletter on 4 February 2019