HBO Delays Launch Of Its First Standalone Streaming Service, Leaving Netflix Alone In The Nordics

Those of us who were looking forward to seeing Netflix and HBO go head-to-head will have to wait just a little bit longer. That’s because HBO has delayed the launch of its HBO Nordic subscription streaming service in Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, according to Reuters.

Just to recap: Both Netflix and HBO announced plans to enter the same four Scandinavian countries around the same time, with each promising a fourth-quarter launch of their services. (Actually, to be more precise, Netflix didn’t announce its proposed rollout date, but HBO said its launch would happen in mid-October.)

For Netflix, the launch those countries was part of a larger international rollout that has been underway since it entered the Canadian market in late 2010. Since then, it’s also introduced its subscription streaming service in 43 countries throughout Latin America, as well as in the U.K. and Ireland.

But for HBO, the Nordic launch was a little more revolutionary — it marked the first time the company planned to sell a standalone over-the-top streaming service in a major market. Up until now, HBO shows have only been available as part of a pay TV subscription, so allowing users to pay for individual access to stream its on-demand library of original series and movies would make for an interesting experiment in a greenfield market. Users have often requested HBO make the same sort of offering available in the U.S., but at least for now, it’s tied to the cable and satellite TV market here.

The bigger question here was how the two would fare against one another: Netflix’s content library is mostly made up of long-tail on-demand content licensed from TV networks and movie studios, while HBO has spent the last few decades building a large catalog of its own original programming. Netflix, too, is getting into the original programming game, but it has nowhere near the brand equity that HBO does on that front. With comparably priced offerings, seeing which service people gravitated to, and whether they’d sign up for one or both, made for an interesting thought experiment.

But a thought experiment it will remain, at least for the time being. According to Reuters, HBO has given “no new launch date or specific reason for the delay.” In the meantime, Netflix rolled out in those markets last week. I’m still awaiting comment from HBO, and will update when/if I hear back.

UPDATE: Full statement from HBO Nordic CEO Herve Payan below:

“The launch of the HBO Nordic network and streaming service is highly anticipated and will be deserving of HBO’s high-quality reputation. We have been in contact with and are listening to our significant local fan base. Slightly pushing back the launch is not tied to one specific reason but simply our desire to meet all expectations. This has been communicated directly to those awaiting HBO Nordic and we have gotten nothing less than an enthusiastic response.”