HBO delays launch in Nordic battle with Netflix

LOS ANGELES Fri Oct 26, 2012 6:49pm EDT

The logo for HBO,Home Box Office, the American premium cable television network, owned by Time Warner, is pictured during the HBO presentation at the Cable portion of the Television Critics Association Summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California August 1, 2012. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

The logo for HBO,Home Box Office, the American premium cable television network, owned by Time Warner, is pictured during the HBO presentation at the Cable portion of the Television Critics Association Summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California August 1, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Premium cable network HBO delayed the launch of video and online distribution of its programming in four Scandinavian countries, giving a head start in the region to a video streaming service by rival Netflix Inc.

HBO Nordic, the joint venture that runs the service, said in a statement to Reuters it had "slightly" pushed back the start date in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. It did not give a new launch date or a precise reason for the delay.

The network known for shows such as "Game of Thrones" and "Boardwalk Empire" announced in August it would begin offering its programming in mid-October through traditional pay TV providers and also as a web-only service.

"Slightly pushing back the launch is not tied to one specific reason but simply our desire to meet all expectations," HBO Nordic Chief Executive Hervé Payan said in a statement.

The Nordic service "will be deserving of HBO's high-quality reputation," Payan said.

HBO Nordic is a joint venture between Time Warner Inc-owned HBO and Parsifal International.

Netflix launched its on-demand video service in the Nordic countries last week. CEO Reed Hastings said the region had become the "global battleground" for television delivered over the Internet, pointing to competition from satellite TV provider ViaSat and the expected launch of HBO's programming.

The move is part of an international expansion that will force Netflix to record a loss in the fourth quarter, Hastings has said. The company is aiming to enter new markets early to build its business around the world.

(Reporting By Lisa Richwine; Edited by Ronald Grover and Tim Dobbyn)