HBO Marks 25 Years as a Pioneer of Content Distribution to Latin America Using Intelsat Satellites

By Carmen Gonzalez-Sanfeliu, Regional Vice President Latin America

Regardless of whether you view your content on the television, tablet or phone, satellite remains the backbone of how the programming is delivered to cable and DTH outlets. This is particularly true in Latin America and the Caribbean, where Home Box Office (HBO), the region’s first cable programmer and a true pioneer in leveraging satellite distribution to access new markets, recently celebrated its 25th anniversary of operations—and of using Intelsat satellites to achieve its business plan.

The company’s growth in Latin America is a clear example of how satellite distribution of content is still relevant and the most efficient way to take content to new markets. HBO’s leadership became a model for the international reach of a number of media companies as they leveraged their content into new regions. Media companies such as HBO have transformed their networks into global platforms by using satellites to deliver content to DTH and cable providers in regions where multiple languages and cultures create distinct markets.

Video neighborhoods such as Latin America allow programmers to tap into the powerful broadcast capability of satellite — with economics and quality that no other technology can match. Intelsat’s Latin America distribution satellites have 100% penetration of the cable head ends in Latin America, allowing content owners such as HBO to market to every potential subscriber on the continent. The ability to reach cable providers with a single satellite transmission gives HBO and other content providers unbeatable economics and reach, key ingredients to building a successful distribution business.

HBO, a unit of Time Warner Inc., operates in 51 countries, with about 122 million subscribers worldwide and more than 20 million in the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. In 1991, HBO was the first cable operator to enter the region, using satellites operated by PanAmSat, which merged with Intelsat in 2006.

In expanding into Latin America, HBO replicated its U.S. business model of using satellites to deliver content to widely dispersed cable operators. The company was able to leverage content already developed for the U.S. market and also created original native-language content. Today, HBO has even segmented its programming for individual countries, with channels for Colombia, Chile, Venezuela, and others where Spanish is the common language. It had already segmented content for Portuguese-speaking Brazil.

The HBO Latin America channel line carries 90 different feeds, with programming that includes the HBO brand of channels (HBO, HBO2, HBO Plus, HBO Family, HBO HD, Cinemax, Max, Max HD and MaxPrime), plus non-HBO channels (such as A&E, Animax, AXN, E! Entertainment, Sony Entertainment TV, the Biography Channel and the History Channel).

HBO Latin America has seen the same trend toward digital viewership of its content that cable operators around the world are experiencing, with viewers wanting to watch their favorite programs on tablet computers and mobile phones. The network is currently implementing its HBO Go as a standalone online subscription service in Latin America that gives subscribers video-on-demand streaming of HBO programming. The service allows subscribers to set Spanish, Portuguese or English as the default language for the programs they view.

From the HBO Latin America distribution center and teleport is in Sunrise, FL, the network is able to connect to the IntelsatOne globalized network and distribute programming to its Latin American’s customers across three Intelsat satellites: IS-11, IS 21 and IS-34. This direct fiber connection to IntelsatOne provides HBO with full teleport backup, a service the network used earlier this month when Hurricane Matthew was projected to strike the Florida coast. HBO switched the transmission of all programming to the Intelsat network 24 hours in advance and then shut down its own teleport. The backup service is also used when the teleport needs to go offline for short periods during equipment service or replacement.

HBO continues to be a pioneer in Latin America, moving now to full conversion of its Latin American programming to high-definition by 2017. Congratulations, HBO, for your 25 years of leadership in distributing compelling programming, with a standard set to nothing less than excellence, to your Latin American viewers. Intelsat is honored to be part of your story.