Netflix released its earnings for the first quarter of 2015 today, and the numbers look good. The streaming giant added a record 4.9 million subscribers globally, bringing more viewers than expected to the service thanks in part to its growing international audience.
Despite its apparent health, however, Netflix felt the need to make one thing clear: HBO is absolutely, totally, definitely not a threat—even with its new standalone streaming service HBO Now.
“As we have said in the past, Netflix and HBO are not substitutes for one another given differing content,” CEO Reed Hastings and CFO David Wells wrote in a letter to investors. “We think both will continue to be successful in the marketplace, as illustrated by the fact that HBO has continued to grow globally and domestically as we have rapidly grown over the past 5 years.”
The dedicated paragraph in the relatively succinct letter seems to signal worry—or at the very least an awareness of the possibility of concern on the part of investors. And its make-nice tone is a world away from the time not so long ago when Hastings joked that HBO was Netflix’s “bitch.”
And yet the threat from HBO is greater than ever before. Prior to the launch of its HBO Now streaming service, HBO may have seemed too different to be a worry. Netflix’s streaming service has always catered to cord-cutters (or cord-nevers), while HBO’s service was still linked with cable, even through HBO Go. That all changed last week when HBO launched HBO Now for $14.99 a month, compared to Netflix’s monthly $7.99 fee for streaming.
While Netflix may want to claim that HBO’s offerings are complementary, HBO Now offers far more than just Girls and Game of Thrones. The service has a wealth of documentaries, premium TV shows, and films. Yes, Netflix has amassed an audience looking for exclusive shows like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. But when it comes to high-quality original content, HBO still sets the standard.
So, yes, Netflix is doing great. But it’s hard to imagine that HBO Now couldn’t steal at least some of that thunder. The world may have room for both. But there’s no doubt that they’re now fighting on the same turf.