HBO Inks Exclusive, 10-Year Deal With Universal To Keep Content Out Of Netflix’s Hands

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HBO today has won a battle in the over-the-top content wars. The pay-TV giant has inked a deal with Universal Pictures that extends Universal Pictures’ and Focus Features’ films appearing on HBO’s TV, online and mobile platforms in the U.S. for the next decade. What’s key is that the deal is exclusive to HBO and will mean that Netflix (and other OTT players) will not get that content: “Yes, it is exclusive. Netflix can’t touch it,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. HBO also has exclusive deals with Fox, Warner Bros, and Summit, in addition to Universal.

The deal, which will give HBO rights to films like Les Miserables (pictured), is a riposte to the exclusive deal Netflix announced with Disney in December. That deal, which propelled Netflix into the content big leagues, will cover Disney classics as well as new Disney live-action and animated features, covering Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, and Disneynature. New releases fall into the pay-TV window six to nine months after the theatrical release of films, and like the HBO/Universal deal, will cover all platforms, including online, on mobile, and tablet devices, as well as connected TVs, Blu-ray players, game consoles, and other streaming boxes. Netflix is also expected to bid on Sony Pictures content, too, the LA Times notes. Combined with the Disney content, that will mean that Netflix has effectively picked up the same content it lost when its contract with Starz ended back in February 2012.

As AllThingsD notes, the deal had been anticipated, and while HBO did not give the financial terms of the agreement, the LA Times puts it on par with HBO’s 20th Century Fox deal, which is over $200 million per year — or at least $2 billion over 10 years. In output deals, it explains, pay-TV providers like HBO pay between 10 percent and 12 percent of the U.S. box office of each film up to $200 million.

The deal shows just how closely HBO is competing with Netflix these days, in particular with a multi-screen strategy.

“With HBO’s far-reaching network of premium services, ranging from the traditional in-home experience to its mobile applications, we are pleased to continue this relationship and bring Universal and Focus Features’ films to HBO subscribers for many years to come,” said Rick Finkelstein, vice chairman and COO, Universal Pictures, in a statement. “With our upcoming slate of films, HBO will continue to offer outstanding film content to their already vast library of movies, specials and award-winning original programming.”

In addition to the HBO and Cinemax pay-TV channels, which cover 100 million subscribers worldwide, HBO also operates HBO On Demand and Cinemax On Demand, as well as HBO GO and MAX GO online channels and apps.