Briel on: HBO launches in the Netherlands

The launch of HBO in the Netherlands in a joint venture with cable operator Ziggo marks an interesting move for the Time-Warner owned company. HBO has been active for many years in Central and Eastern Europe, while the broadcaster was only active as a seller of individual programme rights to local broadcasters in the Western part of the continent.

HBO’s entry into the Dutch market is well-timed and the cooperation with Ziggo, the country’s largest cable operator, makes perfect sense. The installed base of digital receivers is now well over 71% amongst Ziggo customers and the HBO brand is well-known, mainly for its TV series.

HBO Nederland enters the market with a well-thought of portfolio of products, three linear channels in both SD and HD, an S-VOD service and HBO GO, which brings the broadcaster’s programming to multiple screens including tablets. The channel also promises to bring all original HBO content within 24 hours to the Dutch screens – complete with Dutch subtitles – pre-empting pirated versions.

In addition to its own content, HBO also has rights to movies from Warner Bros, Sony Pictures and Disney (unconfirmed). In all, HBO Nederland brings a compelling offer to Dutch viewers with a €14.95 monthly price tag. The launch is promoted with a big campaign, focussed on HBO branded content, encompassing both print (newspapers, TV guides) and on-screen with spots running on multiple networks.

The big question now is if consumers will be willing to fork out the monthly subscription fee. Movie fans will no doubt already subscribe to HBO’s main Dutch competitor, Film1. The Chellomedia network boasts five channels, of which two are simulcast in HD.

Chellomedia has also introduced two new channel concepts, Film1 Series and Film1 Sundance in order to be better prepared to face the new competitor. However, the channel’s movie content has suffered with Warner and possibly Disney departing to HBO. Film1 still retains Universal, Paramount, Fox and Dreamworks as well as independent producers.

Meanwhile, the launch of HBO Nederland also brings the broadcaster its first premium window in the country. Until now, HBO programming was only sold to ‘free-to-air’ broadcasters, with premium reserved for physical carriers (DVD and Blu-ray boxed sets) and On Demand – on Ziggo only. With the launch of the linear channels, HBO is adding a new premium window for is product, with limited risk of losing the programmne sales to regular broadcasters (mainly Dutch public channels).