MUMBAI: Three years after
announcing plans to launch two ad-
free premium movie channels, HBO
Defined and HBO Hits, the broadcaster
has decided to pull the plug on them.
“By the first quarter of 2016, both
these channels will be off the air.
With this, HBO is back to where it
started with one ad-supported
channel,” an industry source told
HBO had been negotiating a
distribution deal with Star India,
which fell through. It has been learnt
that Star’s main interest was in HBO
Defined, which is a more refined
offering of the two channels and
focuses on content like ‘Game of
“The potential deal with Star was
taken off a couple of months back.
After that, HBO’s management
concluded that if it was not
commercially viable, then there was
no point in continuing with the
channels,” added the source.
HBO Hits, on the other hand, focuses
on more mainstream cinema.
The reach of the HBO ad-free
channels was less than half a million
homes. Surely, content costs would
have been a big reason for the
decision. In the current environment,
it is impossible to run a service
without taking any ads at all. “Buying
movies is expensive. It is hard to
justify an ad-free service in this
scenario,” explained the source.
The two channels are carried by the
three major DTH operators—Tata
Sky, Dish TV and Airtel Digital TV. It
is also available on some digital cable
Upon launch, HBO inked a deal with
Eros for the two premium channels.
There was a 50:50 revenue-sharing
arrangement after deducting
operation costs. The revenue share
with operators was similar. The deal
with Eros ended sometime ago.
In April 2013, Monica Tata joined HBO
as MD South Asia. A veteran of the
company, Shruti Bajpai, who oversaw
the growth of HBO over the years,
left the organisation subsequently.
Tata left the company earlier this
year. One of the reasons is said to
have been the discussions with Star,
which meant that Tata would not have
had anything to do had the deal gone
The question now is: Where does HBO
go from here now? When Bajpai
strengthened HBO’s position, there
were fewer players. Subsequently,
however, with the launch of more
channels such as Sony Pix and Movies
Now, the game became more
While HBO has maintained a strong
brand perception over the years, it
remains in fourth position, sometimes
moving up to third. The challenge will
be to recreate its position and get
back at the top.
WB is in the second rung of channels.
That channel operates on Warner Bros
As a footnote, these are not the only
English channels that ceased
operations. Earlier this year, Star
shut down Fox Crime and subsequently
launched Star Movies Select.
MUMBAI: Three years after