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HBO unveiled its latest standalone video-on-demand (VOD) service, HBO España, in November, offering subscribers access to original programming such as “Game of Thrones” and “The Wire,” as well as additional content from Disney and Nickelodeon. The service is similar to the firm’s other digital-only platforms, like HBO Nordic and HBO Now, in that it doesn’t require a pay TV subscription.
Spain may seem an unlikely choice for HBO’s newest venture.
The Spanish TV landscape is still very traditional, with most viewers tuning in only to free-to-air broadcast programming. Though the number of pay TV subscribers is rising, just 26.7% of households in Spain had pay TV as of Q2 2016, according to Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia (CNMC). By comparison, 75% of US households were pay TV subscribers in April 2016, according to GfK.
What’s more, few of the SVOD platforms operating in Spain have gained serious traction. CNMC found that Netflix, which launched in Spain in October 2015, was used by just 1.8% of internet households. Local platform Yomvi was more popular, but the service is also offered bundled with a subscription to pay TV provider Movistar+.
But what makes Spain unique in Western Europe is that about half of households have broadband but not pay TV, one of the highest internet-only household rates in Europe, according to research firm Parks Associates. And, consumers in Spain are also more likely than those in France, Germany and the UK to trade in a pay TV subscription in favor of a digital video service. HBO is likely to be targeting those consumers.
This isn’t the first time that HBO has placed its bet on a country of “cord cutters” and “cord nevers.” In 2012, the firm launched HBO Nordic in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden—countries with some of the highest levels of internet-access in the world but relatively low pay TV penetration rates. Despite some early struggles due to content offering and video quality, HBO Nordic has managed to gain a foothold in the region. According to Mediamätning i Skandinavien (MMS), 9% of the population in Sweden had access to HBO Nordic at home in Q2 2016, making it the third-most popular paid SVOD service after Netflix (34%) and Viaplay (19%).
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