By Sahil Patel
Netflix wants to be HBO. In Sweden, it might be the exact opposite.
Last year, HBO, in partnership with Parsifal International, released a subscription offering in Scandinavia called HBO Nordic. The interesting thing about HBO Nordic is that it’s available both on linear TV and via its own standalone over-the-top site and mobile app. Think HBO Go, but only available in Scandinavian countries. And unlike HBO Go in the US, those who want to subscribe to HBO Nordic are not required to have a cable subscription, they can subscribe directly by paying HBO and Parsifal 10 euros ($12.50) a month.
It goes without saying that HBO’s decision to untether its cable business from its digital video business raised a few eyebrows, though there was added interest because Netflix was also planning to expand to the Nordic countries around the same time.
Two companies, one who increasingly saw the other as its chief competitor, were about to go head-to-head in the truest sense, for the first time.
Well, now both HBO Nordic and Netflix are available in Scandinavia — so how are they doing? According to one report, it’s actually HBO that’s looking up at Netflix for a change.
According to new research from MMS, via BroadbandTV News, 864,000 people have access to Netflix in Sweden, versus only 68,000 who can access HBO Nordic. In terms of a daily audience, in the third quarter, Netflix averaged 308,000 viewers, while HBO Nordic only received about 17,000 users per day. That’s not a gap, that’s an ocean.
Of course we’re talking about international markets, which have generally been more favorable to Netflix and digital video in general. There’s a reason Netflix has been able to strike deals with Virgin Media in the UK and Com Hem in Sweden to integrate its service into their cable boxes — the TV ecosystem outside of the US largely allows for something like that to happen.
In the US, when HBO announced HBO Nordic, there were many people wondering if it wasn’t simply a precursor to the company doing the same thing with HBO Go in the US. Well, there’s been no movement on that front. Why? As HBO has noted in the past, it’s still not economically feasible for it offer HBO Go as a standalone app in the US.
Internationally though, offering a standalone OTT service like HBO Nordic makes sense. Based on MMS’ survey, HBO has a lot of work cut out if it wants to be Netflix in Sweden.
UPDATE: One possible reason for HBO Nordic’s paltry subscriber numbers, as this report notes, is that HBO Nordic originally required users to commit to a six-month subscription, with no initial free trial. Netflix offers a month-long free trial in every region it’s available in.