More than a third of Americans interested in standalone HBO
Michelle Clancy
| 30 October 2014
In the wake of premium cable darling HBO announcing that it will launch an online subscription service next year, it turns out that a full 36% of American TV viewers would be interested in signing up.

But, according to Horizon Media's Finger on the Pulse survey, this statistic gives way to some possible confusion on the part of consumers. More existing HBO subscribers are interested in a standalone HBO (49%) than is the general population (36%). And unfortunately for HBO, out of those who don't have a cable or satellite service (those fabled cord-cutters/cord-nevers), only 28% expressed an interest.

The fact that existing HBO subs would take the streaming version instead even though it would cost the same (an estimated $15) and even though HBO GO already comes free with the TV channel is a head-scratcher. It could mean that existing subscribers expect the streaming service to be cheaper.

"This research shows that HBO is right to proceed with some caution," said Kirk Olson, vice president of TrendSights at Horizon Media. "Price standalone subscriptions too low and the new offering could cannibalise revenue streams from MSO distribution. But price them too high and cost-conscious TV consumers lose interest."

And it gets worse: 75% of respondents said that they would take a standalone subscription only if it's priced in the standard over-the-top (OTT) range of $10 or less. Millennials are more likely to willingly spend more though (48%).

Speaking of demographics, a bright spot here is that they skew the right way: 54% of Millennials said that they are interested, as are 43% of Gen Xers which comprise the advertiser-coveted 18-49 group.

"Stand-alone HBO can deliver on immediacy and access to its own premium content, but it won't deliver on the diverse choice and wider access people increasingly expect," says Dave Campanelli, SVP and director of national broadcast at Horizon Media. "So, it's natural that consumers would ask themselves whether the subscription fee for standalone HBO would end up costing the same or even more while also limiting their choices. In five to ten years, I would expect the share of people interested in services like stand-alone HBO to grow. It's a new and exciting way to access premium entertainment. But for now, in post-recession 2014 America, cost-consciousness trumps newness."