Netflix might have more subscribers, but HBO makes more money

February 5, 2014
February 5, 2014

HBO, the premium cable channel behind hit shows like Girls, Game of Thrones and True Detective, just capped off a record year, according to its parent, Time Warner Inc, which reported results this morning. And for the first time, Time Warner reported numbers for HBO separately.

Illuminating what a juggernaut the business is, HBO’s revenue in 2013 rose by 4% to $4.9 billion. Netflix, by comparison, generated $4.375 billion in revenue. The disparity is even greater when it comes to operating income (revenue less operating, or day-to-day expenses), which came in at $1.8 billion for HBO, while, Netflix’s annual report released this week disclosed operating income of $228.3 million. However, it’s not clear whether the operating income numbers are directly comparable.

Netflix famously surpassed HBO in US subscriber numbers late last year (though HBO said today it recorded its biggest gain in domestic subscribers in 17 years, so its not clear whether that still holds). At any rate, with 114 million subscribers worldwide, HBO remains a bigger business globally (Netflix had 44 million members, worldwide, at the end of 2013) and its higher revenue numbers are a timely reminder of that.

The sad thing for fans of Girls and other HBO shows who don’t have a cable TV subscription is that, with such strong financial results, the company probably faces less pressure to sell its channels and shows directly to Americans online.

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