Updated from March 5 to include potential partnerships in the sixth paragraph.
In a shot at rival Time Warner (TWX), Maffei told investors at a conference hosted by Morgan Stanley that HBO shouldn't expect to generate much demand or profit from its Internet-based standalone service, which is expected to launch later this year.
Conversely, Starz (STRZA), of which Maffei is chairman through Liberty's inter-locking corporate structure, is better positioned than HBO to see profit from alternative offerings from traditional cable-TV and satellite distributors, he said.
"It's unclear to me that there's a massive amount of over-the-top demand for HBO," Maffei said, expressing doubt that consumers will be willing to pay anywhere around $15 for a non-bundled premium-channel service. "It's not clear to me that that's going to create enormous amount of incremental demand for HBO. What is clear to me is that there are people who don't want to get behind the bundle."
In October, HBO CEO Richard Plepler announced plans to sell online subscriptions to the channel as an Internet-based offering. The goal, Plepler said, was to win over the 10 million U.S. homes that have an Internet connection but don't subscribe to pay-TV as well as the 70 million homes that get pay-TV but don't get HBO.