SBJ/October 9 - 15, 2006/Media

On-demand demand: Dedicated HBO Sports category scoring with viewers, network says

HBO Sports is reporting dramatic on-demand usage numbers in the three months since HBO’s popular on-demand service created a dedicated HBO Sports category.

In its first two months, HBO Sports has seen the number of people accessing its programs double, logging more than 2 million orders.

Cable operators are rolling out on-demand programming as an enticement to keep subscribers from migrating to satellite.

By nearly all accounts, HBO has been the most successful programmer in exploiting the on-demand arena. Most cable operators offer HBO On Demand for free to all digital subscribers who subscribe to HBO. Some, such as Cablevision, charge an extra $4.95 a month for access to HBO On Demand in certain areas.

Series such as “The Sopranos” and “Entourage” tend to generate the highest buy rates. HBO Sports’ offerings have always lagged behind.

“The future is real bright for on demand,” said HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg. “If it’s a vibrant space, then it will lessen the need for TiVo and DVRs because you should be able to get all of your HBO in one place.”

Currently, HBO Sports takes up about 25 hours of the 150 hours that HBO can house on on-demand servers — or about 16 percent. Before June, HBO Sports accounted for just 7 percent of HBO’s on-demand offerings.

“We’ve increased our product line since June,” Greenburg said. “We would expect another ramp up as soon as the server can handle it.”

So far, boxing has been one of the most popular offerings for HBO Sports, which Greenburg attributed to “a solid fan base that laps up anything related to the sport.” For HBO Sports, that means programming that markets upcoming pay-per-view fights. On Oct. 30, it will roll out a “Countdown” show previewing the Carlos Baldomir-Floyd Mayweather fight on Nov. 4.

“If you watch these countdown shows, by the end of the 30 minutes you’re dying to see the fight,” Greenburg said.

This month, the on-demand site also features two classic Mayweather fights and other feature programming involving the two fighters, including highlights, fighter interviews and previews from HBO Sports talent such as Larry Merchant and Jim Lampley.

Documentaries also have proved to be popular for HBO Sports. And “Real Sports” has proved to be successful in the on-demand arena, where viewers can either watch the entire show or choose individual segments.

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