HBO nixes idea of Netflix partnership

LOS ANGELES Tue Jul 24, 2012 10:34pm EDT

The headquarters of Netflix is shown in Los Gatos, California September 20, 2011. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

The headquarters of Netflix is shown in Los Gatos, California September 20, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Consumers who dream of watching HBO hits like "The Sopranos" or "Game of Thrones" by streaming to TVs using their Netflix accounts shouldn't hold their breath.

Netflix Inc CEO Reed Hastings raised the tantalizing possibility on Tuesday that his video rental company could partner with HBO, with which his company has jostled in the past, as it has with other television networks that supply programming.

HBO rushed to pour cold water on the possibilities that the Netflix CEO raised in a letter to shareholders, making it clear it had no intentions of making a deal with Hastings, who often singles out HBO as a chief competitor.

"We are not in discussions and have no plans to work with Netflix," HBO spokesman Jeff Cusson said.

HBO offers current and past programs such as "Sex in the City" and "Boardwalk Empire" to its subscribers through HBO Go, an on-demand service available on computers, tablets and mobile phones.

Earlier this year, the premium cable channel, owned by Time Warner Inc, refused to sell to Netflix DVDs of "True Blood" and its other shows at the wholesale price it offers to retail stores.

Hastings has sought to downplay the rivalry with HBO, which sees Netflix's service that streams movies and TV shows to TVs and other mobile devices as a competitor for the service it provides to cable subscribers.

"While we compete for content and viewing time with HBO, it is also possible we will find opportunities to work together - just as we do with other networks," Hastings and Chief Financial Officer David Wells said in their letter.

Hastings did not say whether Netflix would license HBO's programming or co-finance future shows.

The reference to HBO, he told analysts in a conference call after Netflix announced its earnings, was meant to highlight that "we're just another network, and then when you have multiple networks, they often find ways of working together."

No agreement with HBO is in the works, Hastings said in an interview.

"There is no current deal on the table," he said.

(Reporting By Lisa Richwine; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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