Late last year, HBO promoted Otto Berkes, a former Xbox executive, naming him Senior Vice President of Consumer Technology. Berkes played a pivotal role in developing the company's HBO Go and MAX Go streaming apps, efforts that have helped the premium subscription channel cater to a blossoming digital audience. The promotion made clear that, though it's not yet willing to let customers cut the cable entirely, HBO is keenly aware that companies like Netflix are actively striving to unseat the network as the home of top-notch TV programming — without requiring a cable subscription. As reported by AllThingsD, Berkes is wasting no time in shaking up HBO's digital team.
"We have more ahead of us to accomplish."
In a memo to employees, Berkes boasts "HBO GO has established HBO as a company that understands the value of technology as a tool for delivering great content and experiences to consumers." The app, along with HBO.com, has risen to become one of the network's top priorities; and make no mistake, HBO is in this for the long haul. "Over the course of the next several years, our mission is to build best-in-class technology execution capabilities," he says. "That mission is central to ensuring that HBO has the tools available to support our business through the ongoing technology-based disruption of media and to support new areas of growth."
"HBO GO has established HBO as a company that understands the value of technology..."
Berkes says HBO plans to match the best efforts of video delivery services like Netflix, promising that the network will continue to iterate on GO and develop new strategies to expand its digital foothold. He goes on to detail the Digital Product team's restructuring. Perhaps most telling of HBO's personnel shifts is the departure of Hans Deutmayer, signaling the end of an 11 year tenure at HBO in which Deutmayer also contributed to HBO Go and spreading the network's shows and movies across smartphones, tablets, and living room boxes. But apparently something about HBO's new trajectory isn't sitting well. "Given the new organizational direction, he has decided that this is the right time for him to pursue other opportunities," Berkes writes. The goal for his new team is abundantly clear: Berkes says the revised structure will help "create technologies that unlock the full potential of software in the digital content area."
HBO isn't going to ditch its long-standing ties with cable providers, but the company is clearly laying the groundwork for a future in which digital plays an invaluable role. These changes would suggest Otto Berkes has no intention of sitting idly as Netflix tries to best HBO at its own game. With Berkes slated to take on even more responsibilities as Chief Technology Officer starting next month, he may well be trying to beat Netflix at theirs.