Wondering why you still need a cable TV package to subscribe to HBO in the US? Because HBO is making truckloads of cash keeping things the way they are -- even though that might not last forever. Its parent company Time Warner (which spun off Time Warner Cable in 2009) announced financial results for the year, and for the first time in years, it included some details about HBO's business. HBO alone pulled in $1.3 billion in the last three months of 2013, and $4.9 billion for the entire year. Netflix's numbers are actually pretty close, as the streaming company posted sales of $1.18 billion for the quarter and $4.3 billion for the year, despite having fewer customers than HBO worldwide.
The real difference right now is in how much money each keeps in profits after costs for things like original content (House of Cards and Game of Thrones aren't made for free) are accounted for. HBO's operating profit in Q4 is $414 million, and $1.7 billion for the year, but Netflix's Q4 profit came in at $82 million, and for its efforts it made $228 million all year. According to Variety, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said on the earnings call that HBO and Cinemax added about 2 million customers last year, while Netflix grew by 6 million, and added more than 2 million customers just in Q4.
If that difference in growth is making Bewkes sweat, then he's not showing it publicly, saying "HBO is in a league of its own" and pointing to stats that show viewers with HBO and Netflix actually view more of both. The "Albanian Army" is expected to continue its European expansion in 2014 and has already sealed up exclusives for streaming content in the next few years, we'll wait and see if that changes the landscape significantly.