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HBO sells reruns of hit shows to Amazon

Published: Thursday, April 24, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

HBO has cut a deal to sell reruns of many of its hit shows to Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Instant Video platform.

Among the programs that will be made available on Amazon’s Prime Instant Video streaming service are “The Sopranos,” “Six Feet Under,” “The Wire,” “Girls” and “Veep.” The agreement also covers HBO’s miniseries, including “Band of Brothers” and original movies such as “Game Change.”

As part of the pact, HBO’s online streaming service HBO Go will also be available on Amazon’s new Fire TV settop box that is due to launch at the end of the year. HBO shows will be available on Prime Instant starting May 21. Terms were not disclosed.

The exclusive partnership is something of an about-face for HBO, a unit of Time Warner Inc. In the past, the company has indicated it was not interested in selling its content to online subscription services such as Netflix and Amazon, which it saw as competitors.

However, HBO already has a long relationship with Amazon. HBO Go is available to Kindle users, and Amazon also sells DVDs of HBO shows.

By selling reruns of popular shows to Amazon, HBO is also potentially causing some pain for Netflix, which is seen as a much bigger threat than Amazon.

The sale is indicative of how the rerun marketplace has shifted in the last few years. In the past, HBO sold old episodes of its shows to basic cable networks such as A&E and TBS.

But those networks are making more original content and the appetite for HBO’s leftovers has faded. At the same time, companies such as Netflix and Amazon have been spending heavily on content to try to boost their platforms, and that has become a crucial revenue stream for programmers.

“As owners of our original programming, we have always sought to capitalize on that investment. Given our longstanding relationship with Amazon, we couldn’t think of a better partner to entrust with this valuable collection,” said Glenn Whitehead, HBO’s executive vice president of business and legal affairs.

Not wanting to potentially hurt its own business, repeats of episodes of shows currently on HBO such as “Girls” and “Veep” will not be available until three years after airing on the pay-TV channel.

“Game of Thrones,” “Sex and the City” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” are not part of this agreement. “Game of Thrones” is such a hit that HBO likely wants to see if there is a potentially bigger payoff in traditional media. The other two shows are available on other cable networks and until those deals are up, can’t be moved.

All of HBO’s shows will remain available on its own platforms as well.

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©2014 Los Angeles Times

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