Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is associated with Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and can be detected by in situ hybridization (ISH) of viral nucleic acid (EBER) in tumor cells. We sought to determine whether plasma EBV-DNA could serve as a surrogate for EBER-ISH and to explore its prognostic utility in HL. Specimens from the Cancer Cooperative Intergroup Trial E2496 were used to compare pretreatment plasma EBV-DNA quantification with EBV tumor status by EBER-ISH. A cutoff of >60 viral copies/100 μL plasma yielded 96% concordance with EBER-ISH. Pretreatment and month 6 plasma specimens were designated EBV(-) or EBV(+) by this cutoff. Patients with pretreatment EBV(1) plasma (n = 54) had inferior failure-free survival (FFS) compared with those with pretreatment EBV(-) plasma (n = 274), log-rank P = .009. By contrast, no difference in FFS was observed when patients were stratified by EBER-ISH. Pretreatment plasma EBV positivity was an independent predictor of treatment failure on multivariate analyses. At month 6, plasma EBV(+) patients (n = 7) had inferior FFS compared with plasma EBV(-) patients (n = 125), log-rank P = .007. These results confirm that plasma EBV-DNA is highly concordant with EBER-ISH in HL and suggest that it may have prognostic utility both at baseline and after therapy. This trial was registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov as #NCT00003389.