Time Warner Inc's HBO is making nearly all of its titles available for its HBO Go service, upping the ante in its fight against Netflix.
HBO said on Wednesday it is putting more than 1,400 its shows, including every episode of The Sopranos and True Blood, on its service that lets subscribers to the premium pay channel instantly watch its programing through devices with broadband connections.
Previously, HBO GO offered about 600 titles.
HBO Go is a version of Time Warner's TV anywhere concept, which lets cable, satellite and telephone subscribers access programing through computers, smartphones and tablet devices once they are authenticated as paying customers. The service is available for no extra cost to Comcast Xfinity TV, Verizon Fios, Cox Advanced TV and AT&T U-Verse customers.
HBO Go is a direct strike against the streaming video and mail-in DVD company Netflix, which added another 3 million subscribers in the fourth quarter to bring the total to 20 million.
Time Warner Chief Executive Jeffrey Bewkes, who used to head up the HBO division, has been one of Netflix's loudest critics in recent months because it competes with cable operators that pay a premium to carry TV programs and movies. The fear is that people will drop pricey cable subscriptions -- known in the industry as cord cutting -- in favor of services that bring TV and movies from the Internet to TVs.
Time Warner lost about 1.5 million HBO subscribers in 2010 due to the end of promotions with some of its distributors and a tough economy. HBO has about 30 million subscribers.
Analysts and investors have pressed Time Warner about making HBO Go available to non-cable subscribers. At an investor conference last December, Bewkes hinted that it could be a possibility.
We could offer it to you separately, and we can do it through the existing distributors that we have, or we could do it through new distributors, Bewkes said in December. That is something that represents a great consumer opportunity in the future and tremendous upside for HBO.
(Reporting by Jennifer Saba; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)