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Star India inks content deal with HBO

MUMBAI: Star India has secured premium content from HBO original shows that will feed into its English-language channels and its digital platform Hotstar.

This probably is the first time that HBO is selling shows to a third party on such a large scale. In the past, most HBO shows have aired on their channels.

The deal comes into effect from 1 January 2016. Star’s English channels and Hotstar will be able to air HBO Originals such as ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘True Detective’, ‘Silicon Valley’, ‘Veep’ and ‘Leftovers’.

Forthcoming HBO Originals ‘Westworld’ and Martin Scorsese-directed ‘Vinyl’, scheduled to air on 14 February, also form part of the deal.

In addition, popular HBO library shows such as ‘Entourage’, ‘Band of Brothers’, ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ will be available to Star India.

Popular HBO Original programmes will show on Hotstar on the same day as the telecast in the US.

Star India CEO Uday ShankarSaid Star India CEO Uday Shankar, “Star will become the exclusive destination for screening HBO content in India—once again resetting the benchmark for quality and depth of content offering for its viewers. Fans will be able to watch their favourite HBO Original programmes on Hotstar on the same day as their telecast in the US. Viewers will also be able to see the HBO Original programming on Star’s English channels.”

Such premium content will give Hotstar a boost. “Hotstar is a leading destination for our growing family of content viewers. We have constantly aspired to offer high-quality content across genres and languages. HBO Originals, with their outstanding programme bouquet, will be yet another quantum leap in delighting and enthralling our viewers,” Shankar added.

An industry source noted that the deal is in Star’s wheelhouse. “They have channels like Star World Premiere and Star World. The deal also allows them to build Hotstar as a destination for premium content.”

For HBO, this is a new chapter in India. HBO Asia CEO Jonathan Spink noted, “HBO is delighted to enter this new chapter in India with Star. Through the first release of our shows on Hotstar, Indian audiences will now have unprecedented flexibility in how they consume HBO’s much-loved premium programming.”

HBO Defined, which aired shows such as ‘Game of Thrones’, will be discontinued from 31 December. HBO Hits, which showed movies from studios, will be replaced with HBO HD in the first quarter of 2016.

Incidentally, HBO had launched HBO Defined and HBO Hits in 2013 as ad-free premium subscription channels. But there weren’t enough subscribers to support such a business model.

Could HBO’s shows have found space in the flagship channel in India or its high-definition version? “Star has a wider spread of channels and an over-the-top (OTT) property where it can run HBO Original content. That probably makes better commercial sense than to show it on the HBO channel,” said a media analyst.