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HBO Finally Goes Standalone as Netflix Sets Out to Conquer Europe and Asia

HBO Finally Goes Standalone as Netflix Sets Out to Conquer Europe and Asia

HBO is finally meeting the Netflix challenge. HBO Chairman and CEO Richard Plepler told Time Warner investors today that HBO will finally offer a standalone streaming service in 2015. “It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO.” Currently, only those with an HBO subscription have access to HBO Go, although HBO knows most subscribers share their passwords with other people and they’re apparently cool with it. That’s going to change.

One HBO offering that may be available on the premium cable network is “Codes of Conduct,” a drama from “12 Years a Slave” Best Picture-winning director Steve McQueen that’s centered on a young black man’s ascent into elite Manhattan society. McQueen and “World War Z” scribe Matthew Michael Carnahan penned the pilot together. We’ll know more about the drama’s full series potential when that pilot shakes out.

Meanwhile Netflix chief Ted Sarandos is continuing his assault on the entertainment establishment, adding to his already controversial day-and-date release plan with The Weinstein Company on the “Crouching Tiger” sequel, and the company’s exclusive–and controversial– three-picture deal with Adam Sandler, which brings the star’s movies to Netflix subscribers without showing in theaters at all. 

During his Cannes MIPCOM keynote speech (Variety’s report here), Sarandos reassured exhibitors — many of whom have boycotted the presentation of “Crouching Tiger 2” on their screens — that he’s not trying to kill the theatrical model but, rather, offer a wider range of content to a broader, younger audience: “The current model we have has been the same almost since the beginning of movies on television in the early ’70s… the world has moved on from then.”

At MIPCOM, THR reported, Sarandos announced that Netflix will be “expanding into more niche genres, including the financing of documentary and art house films,” which, according to Sarandos, “used to only be available to elite audiences, and we are looking to bring that content out to the rest of the world.” The company is already operating as a digital distribution platform for documentaries, from last year’s Oscar-nominated “The Square” to this year’s “Virunga” and “Mission Blue.” More at Variety

At MIPCOM, Sarandos also boldly predicted that broadcast television will soon trail the pattern of Netflix (and now Amazon Studios) by releasing entire seasons at a time rather than piecemeal series episodes: “Releasing one episode at a time will increasingly be a thing of the past… Releasing a full season will soon become a common thing. Even as early as next year.”

Sarandos also detailed Netflix’s foray into European programming, with French-language drama “Marseilles” already greenlit and a big budget period drama “Marco Polo” set to premiere on December 12. He pointed out that “Les Revenants” was a huge hit with U.S. subscribers. 

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