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HBO, WB TV channels to disappear from India by end-2020 - but don't lose heart

hbo to exit india
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The growing popularity of streaming platforms over traditional satellite channels in urban India appears to have claimed its first victim. WarnerMedia says it would soon discontinue the HBI and WB TV channels in India and other countries of South Asia. 

The company said in a statement that both channels would go off air by the end of the year and blamed the low cable subscription costs for their decision. In India, one can subscribe to these channels at quarter of what it would cost an American home to get the services. In the US, the services cost approximately $2. 

The services would also go off air from December 15 in Bangladesh, Maldives and Pakistan - all countries where the two channels are part of a bouquet that satellite cable networks such as Tata Sky and Sun TV sell directly to homes. 

“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. The pay-TV industry landscape and the market dynamics have shifted dramatically, and the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for further change,” Siddharth Jain, SVP and Managing Director of WarnerMedia’s entertainment network in South Asia, said in a statement.

While Hollywood movies are a big attraction for urban India, it is not so in most of the hinterland where Hindi and regional languages are spoken. Hence, despite the popularity of both HBO and WB in western markets, the audience size remained very small in India and the other South Asian countries.

Additionally, HBO and WB faced serious competition from the likes of Star Movies, Sony Pix and Movies Now, besides a host of regional channels broadcasting in Hindi and other Indian languages such as Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Odiya, Marathi and Bengali to name a few.  

Times Internet’s Movies Now, Star Movies and Sony Pix had a considerably larger viewership than HBO in India last month, according to Broadcast Audience Research Council, India’s ratings agency.

On its part, Warner Media said the decision to log off from India was taken in view of the marked shift in the pay-TV industry that has witnessed competition from several OTT platforms. The likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, HotStar and SonyLIV have seen a spurt in audience during the post-lockdown era since March this year. 

However, the company clarified that it would continue to offer Cartoon Network and Pogo in India and also distribute CNN International. The company also has a deal with Disney HotStar through which customers can get to watch HBO shows including "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver". 

“WarnerMedia has a strong interest in India and are committed to assessing optimal opportunities to serve valued customers here,” is how Jain described the company's links with India. 

A media veteran who turned a gadget lover fairly recently. An early adopter of Apple products, Raj has an insatiable curiosity for facts and figures which he puts to use in research. He engages in active sport and retreats to his farm during his spare time.