So many questions arose after Time Warner said HBO’s sub count will fall by 1.5mln this year. Is the situation more serious than CEO Jeff Bewkes and CFO John Martin let on? Are other premium nets feeling a similar pinch? Will HBO’s expired marketing deal with DirecTV apply added pressure? It’s probably prudent to believe Bewkes and Martin—for now—that there’s no need to panic. Bewkes led HBO for years and knows the business inside and out, and Martin’s claim that most of the sub losses don’t directly affect rev makes sense. But with the economy still sputtering and an interesting recent prevalence of free previews for numerous costly programming packages such as NHL Center Ice, it seems logical to question Americans’ willingness to pay up for extra content—especially with cord cutting an issue already. Consider, then, Comcast’s recent offer of 6 months free of HBO, or DirecTV’s offer to purchase Starz and Showtime for the price of 1. On top of the DBS op’s featured discount that along with Comcast’s offer hints at premium slowness, HBO is likely affected by DirecTV’s current lack of marketing and promotion. It’s impossible to judge by how much, but ceding the limelight to competitors rarely becomes a boon. TWX believes teh DirecTV deal will be renewed soon enough, and HBO is arguably leading the charge where value-added streaming options are concerned. After all, most Americans now demand more for their money, if not more for less. Stay tuned.