HBO: “Technology remains the major catalyst for change in the TV business”

Bob Zitter, EVP and CTO of HBO

Bob Zitter, EVP and CTO of HBO

Bob Zitter, EVP and CTO of Home Box Office (HBO), on the role technology plays in changing the television business, the “end of linear broadcasts”, and his plans for the ‘HBO GO’ service.

Bob will be speaking at the TV Connect 2013 event taking place in London on 19-21 March 2013. For more information and to register, please visit

We’ve seen some huge changes in the television business over the past few years. How do you think technology has acted as a catalyst here?

Technology has had a profound impact on the television business, but changes brought about from technology advances are not new. Satellite technology enabled the creation of a multitude of national, regional and international television networks.

Encryption and digital compression made the Direct Broadcast Satellite business possible. On-demand technology and DVRs allowed viewers to control when they watched their favourite programmes.

Digital production lowered the costs and improved the workflow to create programmes, even empowering consumer generated video content. Digital distribution improved the quality, and quantity of programme choices and enabled distribution over telephone plant IPTV.

Finally, high-speed Internet brought video programming to new categories of consumer devices to use within and outside the home. In my opinion, technology has been and remains the major catalyst for change in the television business.

What other catalysts have you identified?

Interactivity and convergence with the Internet are enabling television to become more than a passive medium.

Viewers are able to dive deeper into the story, access sports statistics to supplement the game, or share their thoughts with their friends. Advertisers are able to target specific viewers in meaningful ways (see the press reports on how Obama won the US election!).

Mobility and portability of video programme distribution will, in my opinion, have a profound impact on the television business. As viewers are able to consume programming outside the home, so many opportunities arise and will evolve.

In the end, consumers want to control what they watch, when they watch it, and on what device they use. Success in the television programming business will recognise and serve this need, without regard to the distribution technology.

Do these changes spell the end for linear television broadcasts?

Linear television viewing is declining as DVR, on-demand and Internet video streaming on-demand increases. I believe this trend will continue, however it’s doubtful that linear television goes away.

Networks are spending increasing amounts for sports license fees because viewers appetite for live sports on television remains strong. Live news is another draw to linear television, although people are certainly modifying how they obtain their news.

Where does HBO GO fit into this picture, and what plans do you have for it?

HBO GO is the enhancement to the service we provide for free to HBO subscribers that enables them to enjoy all our programming when they want, wherever they want, on whatever device they wish to use.

Subscribers can access current HBO series, our entire programme library, as well as new theatrical films on their computers, tablets, smart phones, game consoles and Internet connected TV’s.

In the US we have been expanding the universe of devices that can access HBO GO and the enhancement is available to HBO subscribers in a growing number of countries outside the US.

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