HBO executive quits as company prepares to launch standalone streaming service

10 Dec 2014

American premium cable network HBO is to launch a standalone streaming system that will operate outside of its usual monthly subscription service.

The company is aiming to debut the system this April – just in time for the fifth season of its popular Game of Thrones series – and according to Fortune sources, Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) has been recruited to build the premium streaming network.

The decision to outsource the technology rather than develop it in-house has led to the resignation of HBO chief technology officer Otto Berkes, who claimed the firm was not utilising his ‘overall capabilities’.

“Recently HBO’s management decided to partner with a third party to assist HBO in bringing our over-the-top (OTT) service to market in 2015,” wrote Berkes in a memo obtained by Variety.

“This is a change in direction from what I planned with HBO and the approach will not utilise my overall capabilities. Therefore, I feel that this is the right time for me to move on from HBO so that I am able to fully pursue my passion building world-class technology teams, products and businesses.”

Killing Maui

Berkes had been working on a video-streaming system under the name Maui, but the project had been killed amid fears it would take too long to develop.

“This was not a judgment of the team’s work quality or deliverables but rather a bet that an existing streaming service could deliver the needed product faster and at lower risk than Maui,” wrote Mark Thomas, senior VP of technology programme management, and Drew Angeloff, senior VP of digital products, in a previous memo.

MLBAM operates Major League Baseball’s online subscription streaming service, as well as powering the streaming systems of a number of clients, including the WWE Network and WatchESPN.

In October, Richard Plepler, chair and CEO of HBO, announced the company would be offering a standalone OTT streaming service to US customers, targeting the flush market of 80m homes without this premium cable and satellite offering.

“That is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped. It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO,” said Plepler.

Game of Thrones image via Shutterstock

Dean Van Nguyen was a contributor to Silicon Republic