American multinational media and entertainment giant WarnerMedia has decided to discontinue its popular movie TV channels HBO and WB in India and other select South Asian nations after decades of operations, owing to the rapid change in market trends favoring video streaming services.
While HBO and WB linear movie channels will be taken off-air in India and Pakistan, viewers in Bangladesh and Maldives won’t be able to watch WB starting December 15, the company said on Thursday.
“After 20 years of successes for the HBO linear movie channel in south Asia and more than a decade with the WB linear movie channel, this was a difficult decision to make,” Siddharth Jain, senior vice-president and managing director for WarnerMedia’s entertainment networks in South Asia, said in a statement.
The media giant said it will continue to operate and invest in the kids’ brands Cartoon Network and POGO in South Asia.
Over the last couple of years, viewers in India have been increasingly shunning cable TV and DTH (direct-to-home) services in favor of OTT (over-the-top) services like Netflix, Walt Disney-owned Hotstar, and Amazon Prime, among others. Disney Plus, the newest streaming service from US media house Walt Disney, which made its debut in India through Hotstar in April has picked up in the country fairly well. By the end of the June quarter, India had almost nine million subscribers, accounting for 15% of Disney Plus’ global subscriber base.
In India, HBO has a content syndication partnership with Disney’s Hotstar which will continue even after the TV channel is discontinued. Under this partnership, the streaming service offers over 100 HBO original shows including Game of Thrones and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
According to Jain, the pay-TV industry landscape and market dynamics have shifted dramatically, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for further change.
WarnerMedia, in fact, has been mulling over the right time to bring its new streaming service, HBO Max, to India. The New York-headquartered company gave India a surprise miss when the service was launched globally in May.
In September, Gerhard Zeiler, head of international, WarnerMedia, hinted that the video streaming services may soon come to India.
“If you want to be a strong global player, you have to be strong in Asia-Pacific. In India, we don’t have the scale that we want and where we have to be. In order to get there, the workhorse will be HBO Max,” Zeiler said during a fireside chat at the APOS Summit 2020.
Zeiler added that the company wants the international market to contribute 70% to its revenue over the next 10 years, as opposed to 30% at present.
While WarnerMedia has a fairly large presence in China and Japan, in India, it lags behind Times Internet’s Movies Now, Star Movies, and Sony Pix in terms of viewership, said a Techcrunch report citing data from Broadcast Audience Research Council, India’s rating agency.