Digi platforms drive HBO spring shows to new heights

Almost 40% of viewers watched Game of Thrones, season six, via OTT platforms, with HBO Go and HBO Now up a combined 91% from last season.
July 20, 2016

With global subscriptions failing to meet targets and stocks tumbling, Netflix is having a bad week. But over at HBO — which operates rival streamer HBO Now, as well as on-demand options for cable subscribers — business couldn’t be better.

The linear network, owned by Time Warner, released online viewership numbers this week that chart an overall upward trend.

Many of its most popular shows, including Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, Veep and Last Week with John Oliver, have hit record viewing levels this year, according to HBO. Meanwhile, Real Time with Bill Maher is seeing its largest audience since the show’s debut 13 years ago.

Richard Plepler, HBO chair and CEO, credited the network’s digital model, which includes the subscription-based app HBO Now, and OTT options HBO Go and HBO On Demand, for driving the growth.

“Our programming is being exposed to an ever-growing audience,” said Plepler in a statement.

No surprise, the mega-popular fantasy drama Games of Thrones (the most-watched HBO series on record) continues to play a big part in the network’s success in reaching viewers both inside and out of the cable umbrella (including cable cutters and cable nevers). Combining linear and digital views, the series’ sixth season smashed all previous seasons with episodes averaging 25.1 million viewers to-date, according to the network. That’s approximately five million viewers more than last year’s average (20.2 million).

Viewing across HBO’s digital platforms comprised almost 40% of the season-six total viewing, with HBO Go and HBO Now up a combined 91% compared to last season.

Season three of Silicon Valley scored its place as the most-watched season of the series to date, with recent episodes of the comedy averaging 6.7 million viewers compared to 6.1 million last year. The show also grabbed nearly 40% of its viewership on all three HBO digital platform.

Veep continued the upward trend with the season five audience averaging a series high of 4.7 million viewers per episode. Last season’s average was 4.2 million. Almost 25% of viewers chose digital platforms to watch Veep.

Season three of Last Week with John Oliver is currently averaging a gross audience of 5.6 million viewers per episode, compared to last year’s average of 4.7 million. Nearly a quarter (22%) of viewers watched the comedic news show on digital.

Finally, this season’s Real Time with Bill Maher is averaging 4.4 million viewers (10% from digital).

Earlier this spring, HBO announced its plans to add Brazil and Argentina to its growing list of streaming territories by the end of the year via HBO Go. It also moved to the launch HBO Now in Spain.

As of March, HBO operates standalone streaming services in nine territories worldwide, including the U.S., Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Colombia, Mexico, Hong Kong and Singapore.

A recent survey from the Solutions Research Group (SRG) tracking the popularity of U.S. cable networks lists HBO in sixth place, its best showing in the rankings of “must-keep TV” channels in America since 2007.

Among Netflix subscribers, the SRG survey found paid TV still has a place, with HBO (along with A&E, AMC and CW) considered more valuable than cable giants ABC, CBS and FOX.

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