An inside look at HBO Nordic’s social TV strategy

By Natan Edelsburg 

The social web instantly connects millions (and now billions)  of people around the world. For social TV, the TV part is not always as global. A big elephant in the social TV living room is how TV fans around the room talk about TV content at the same time but can’t necessarily access it. “HBO Nordic AB, the newly formed joint venture of  Home Box Office, Inc. and Parsifal International,” will be launching in mid-October on linear and have already launched in a big way on social. 

Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland will soon be able to watch True Blood, Game of Thrones and more, legally. This major launch for HBO is accompanied by an impressive social TV strategy that has been used in the region to create buzz and build a community in time for the launch and beyond. The launch on linear will be accompanied by an HBO GO type streaming capabilities via and a major investment in social TV across four different languages. We interviewed Johan A Larsson, Head of Social Media at HBO Nordic AB about their strategy and success so far.

LR: How did you launch the social channels for HBO Nordic? How have they grown so far?
Johan A Larsson: We launched our Facebook and Twitter channels on August 30th in connection with a large press event we held in Stockholm, Sweden, to present HBO Nordic and our offering. It was rather well received with lots of positive sentiment and engagement. We also received 10,000 Facebook fans in 24 hours and 25,000 fans in the first week, which should be viewed in relation to the less than 25 million population of our home market. We passed 50k fans in less than 1 month.


LR: How do you handle multi-language issues in the region on social?
Larsson: We communicate in local language in all channels, with local staff employed for each country.
On Facebook, we made a strategic decision to go for one multi-language Nordic page to aggregate fan-count. The page is also geo-blocked for the Nordic countries, to avoid interference with HBO offerings in other countries.
We had some classic Facebook problems during launch, when the function to geo-block posts in the timeline view was unexpectedly disabled about 24 hours after launch. Our local Facebook contact managed to get it back after a few days, but it cost us lots of frustration and confused customers who was seeing the same post in all languages.
For the near future, we’re looking forward to the new “Switch region” now in beta-test, which we expect will facilitate localisation of “about”-texts as well as page name and url.
On Twitter, we’re doing the classic one account per language, with a central place-holder account in English linking to the local accounts.

LR: Have you used Facebook ads at all? Have they been helpful?
Larsson: We have done some limited native Facebook advertising, focusing on pure like-ads, but also experimenting with some sponsored stories and promoted posts, optimising for growth of fan-audience. Facebook ads will grow in importance once we have launched the service.

LR: Which shows do you think will be most popular?
Larsson: We naturally expect the new seasons to draw lots of attention, as well as some great new series we’ll talk more about soon.

LR: Do you think people in the region have already viewed HBO content illegally that you’re planning on airing?
Larsson: Our market research shows very high levels of HBO brand awareness in the Nordics and most top HBO series have been aired on national television and sold well as DVD boxes throughout the region in the past. We believe that our new offering with its great content, low price and launch directly after US premiere has the right ingredients for all consumers to start enjoying HBO online on our platform