WarnerMedia has announced that it will discontinue two channels in India, Pakistan, Maldives and Bangladesh — HBO and WB — from December 15, Campaign India reports. Unlike in many markets, HBO doesn’t broadcast shows and films that are generally associated with the HBO brand in the US — it has been a generic English-language movie channel. Both HBO and WB primarily broadcast films from Warner Bros. Siddharth Jain, MD of Warner Media South Asia, reportedly said that the “pay-TV industry landscape and the market dynamics have shifted dramatically,” and that the COVID-19 lockdown sped up the company’s “need for further change”.
The channels’ closure is significant, as it represents a major chunk of televised English-language entertainment broadcast in India. It also comes amid cost-cutting and layoffs at WarnerMedia at a global level. We have reached out to Warner to find out whether job losses are involved in these channels being pulled off air, and if so, how many employees were impacted.
Layoffs or not, one thing seems clear: English-speaking (and therefore largely affluent) TV audiences, which is the demographic that channels with Hollywood content target, are likely to be the first to move their TV viewing online to streaming services. The fact that HBO and WB, both strong brands, are no longer deemed essential enough to keep on the air is a strong indication of the growth OTT platforms like Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have enjoyed in India.
Currently, only a fraction of viewership of streaming services is through TVs, however, it looks to be growing large enough to replace some niches on linear television. HBO Max, also owned by WarnerMedia, may soon enter India too, Gerhard Zeiler, head of WarnerMedia parent Turner International indicated.