HBO's "Game of Thrones" isn't just a cultural phenomenon - it's also a driving force for the company's over-the-top service aimed at cord cutters, HBO NOW. According to new data from app store analytics firm App Annie, the HBO NOW streaming app was downloaded over 500,000 times in the first week following the Season 7 premiere. This translated into a massive increase in subscription revenue for the app, allowing it to snag the number three spot on the 'Top Grossing' chart across both iOS and Google Play.
On the day of the "Game of Thrones" premiere, Sunday July 16, 2017, the increase in revenue was so substantive that HBO NOW jumped up the top grossing chart by combined revenue by 11 ranks in the U.S., compared with the day prior.
While Netflix in the second quarter became the top grossing non-game app across both app stores, HBO NOW's move this month was even more impressive. It didn't just become the top grossing non-game app - it beat out all the other games on the revenue charts except for Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans.
That means it also became the #1 non-game app by combined iOS and Google Play revenue across the U.S. app stores on the day of premiere, App Annie notes.
The revenue increases were tied to a large jump in downloads from users who weren't just opting for HBO NOW's free trial, but signing up and subscribing immediately.
On the day of the premiere, HBO NOW saw 4 times the downloads compared with the average daily downloads of the 30 days prior. More remarkably, it was able to sustain this daily download bump for four days after the premiere. This led to over 500,000 downloads of the app across both the Apple App Store and Google Play in the U.S., and a 3x increase in revenue on the day of the premiere.
The interest in "Game of Thrones" isn't just limited to the U.S. While HBO NOW's streaming app is U.S.-only, the HBO GO app is available in several regions outside the U.S. And it, too, saw downloads increase by significant numbers.
Daily downloads for HBO GO peaked on July 16, 2017 and July 18, 2017, at well over 3x the number of downloads compared with the average daily downloads of HBO GO in the 30 days prior, in both the U.S. and globally.
While a jump in downloads and revenue are to be expected for a show as popular as "Game of Thrones" - especially considering the premiere broke HBO's streaming records - they also indicate a different sort of billing cycle when it comes to cord cutters. Clearly, there's a large audience who subscribe to HBO mainly "Game of Thrones," then cancel that subscription when the season ends.
That means HBO will need to figure out its longer term content strategy in order to reduce subscriber churn and keep the series' fans from leaving HBO when their favorite show one day finally concludes.
HBO has to some extent addressed its plans on this front, saying it understands how it's important to have a wide range of offerings for streaming service users - not just top performers like "Game of Thrones," but also other content, like big-ticket dramas, documentaries, and sports programs, for example.
“Usage is going across a wide range of categories — it’s not just ‘Westworld’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘The Night Of’,” HBO CEO Richard Plepler said in February, in a report by Variety. “We’re in the business of curating great content. We’re very encouraged by what we’ve seen in churn," he added.
The company, at that time, also said the HBO NOW streaming service had surpassed 2 million subscribers in the U.S., an increase from 800,000 by the end of 2016. However, HBO NOW is no longer the only way for cord cutters to (legally) watch HBO. The network is also available as an add-on subscription across a number of internet TV services, like HBO, Sling TV, DirecTV Now, and as a standalone subscription via Amazon Channels.
According to a report this month from Financial Times (via Decider), this expanded access translates into nearly 3.5 million digital subscribers who don't pay for HBO through a traditional pay TV provider, like cable or satellite.
That's only an okay number for this still relatively new streaming service - though it's worth pointing out that Netflix added more subscribers in the past quarter alone than all of HBO's digital subscriber base. And that 3.5 million figure is just about 3 percent of HBO's 131 million worldwide subscribers, 34 million of which are in the U.S, noted Decider.
As more consumers cut the cord, there's a big chance that a number of them will be lost to HBO entirely - especially when its $15/month over-the-top pricing is so much higher than its streaming competitors. And if HBO doesn't find its next "Game of Thrones," it may struggle to bring its former subscribers back after they ditch pay TV.