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HBO Admits That Perhaps Cable-Free Access Might Possibly Make Sense One Day, Maybe

from the with-great-reservation dept

Slowly but surely, HBO seems to be softening on that whole "internet" thing that everyone keeps asking them to look into. We recently noted that they've acknowledged the need to make shows like Game of Thrones more widely available online for the international market, and now Reuters reports rumblings of corollary realization: offering HBO Go as a standalone service without a cable package might be a good idea. Or at least it's crossed their minds.

"Right now we have the right model," [HBO Chief Executive Richard] Plepler told Reuters on Wednesday evening at the Season 3 premiere of HBO's hit TV show "Game of Thrones." "Maybe HBO GO, with our broadband partners, could evolve."

...

Plepler said late Wednesday that HBO GO could be packaged with a monthly Internet service, in partnership with broadband providers, reducing the cost.

Customers could pay $50 a month for their broadband Internet and an extra $10 or $15 for HBO to be packaged in with that service, for a total of $60 or $65 per month, Plepler explained.

"We would have to make the math work," he added.

The folks at HBO seem intent on letting the world know that they know these demands exist—they're not stupid or blind, they just happen to be making a lot of money with things the way they are, thank you very much. But while there's often a lot of sense to the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it mentality, the record and film industries serve as illustrative examples of why it may not be a great approach for content companies faced with new technologies. It's easier to experiment when you've got money, and HBO could be using these successful times to start piloting and ultimately launching an online-only service that is superior to the competition, both legitimate and otherwise. If they wait until the growing cable-cutter movement actually necessitates the shift, they could end up like those other industries—dragging their heels until someone else steps in to do the hard work (iTunes, Netflix), or offering ersatz late-to-the-game products of their own (Ultraviolet, Hulu).

Still, it's good to know that it's occurred to them. As for the idea of bundling it with ISP subscriptions, while it makes less sense than offering something to everyone who wants it, it's actually not a bad first step for a company that relies so heavily on partnerships with cable providers (who also happen to be ISPs). However, depending on how such a plan was implemented, it could raise a lot of issues around net neutrality, and could lead to a bundling problem that's just as bad as exists now with cable—especially if it's successful at first, and the providers try to pile on with all kinds of other content subscriptions. Since HBO is obviously going to take its sweet time with any online-only strategy, hopefully it at least realizes that solving the cord-cutting problem is a better goal than renewing and postponing it.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 5:58am

    How hard is it to put up a subscription service for all? If it fails or if it's not worth the effort simply pull the plug. Warn all subscribers that it's a test service and it may be terminated anytime. Or if you like bundling stuff partner with netflix and offer your content for extra $ per month, the structure is already there. Then if uber successful offer the content standalone in your site. There are all sorts of possibilities and testing does not hurt.

    If you are as successful as HBO you can do it. If the cable operators freak out well, there's plenty of space to advertise and encourage cord cutting ;)

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 6:01am

    because it makes absolute and perfect sense and because it has been suggested by others, even though they know full well that it makes absolute and perfect sense, HBO wont do anything. if they did, it would be an admission of them doing what is wrong and stupid up til now, and we cant have that, can we?

     

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  3.  
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    Long J Silver, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 6:12am

    I honestly think they have no idea of how much cash they're throwing away.

    They could get ~$10 a month from me with little to no work, hell I want to pay them. But apparently my euro dollars just aren't worth their time.

    Back to the bay for me...

     

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  4.  
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    Simon, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 6:14am

    Let's face it, high-quality DRM free copies of every Game of Thrones episode is available for download on the Internet, and it's not hard to find them.

    What have HBO really got to lose by making DRM free mkv file versions easily available from their website and charging a few bucks for every episode?

     

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  5.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 6:20am

    Interesting to juxtapose a paywall may be going up:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 6:20am

    If HBO goes ahead with this, how much will they charge the ISP for the association?
    The carrot to the ISP being that offering HBO gives them an advantage in the market.

     

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  7.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 6:22am

    How about realising that the Internet does not have freakin' borders and making a subscription available to people in other countries? They do exist, you know.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 6:26am

    Oh boy, yet /another/ monthly subscription.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 6:30am

    Re: Interesting to juxtapose a paywall may be going up:

    That's some epic win. If the MAFIAA is wise they'll hop in and offer their content on paid channels with some freebies to attract customers. Should be a serious hit in movie;tv series "piracy".

    From the article:

    YouTube is advising its current partners to consider carefully how their existing audience will react. Most have spent years building up a base of free subscribers through hard work and cross-promotion. Can they produce content worth paying for?

    I'm afraid many will fail to do it right here. For Youtube it'll be a smashing success. For the content providers it all depends. It's yet one more channel for the artists to make money!

     

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  10.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 6:36am

    Re:

    This is an issue that will have to be dealt with. If every single company out there charges for a subscription it'll stop working properly. That's why associating with some service might be a good idea. Or offer content for download for very few bucks with an option of subscription for those who want it.

    The market is evolving and adapting. It's interesting to watch it developing!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 6:40am

    You don't have to open HBO Go, how about selling episodes of GoT on iTunes or Amazon Video on Demand the day after it premieres on TV, like just about every other TV Show.

     

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  12.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 6:48am

    Re:

    exactly. I don't even watch TV anymore but I could easily see myself paying a subscription cost for access to HBO without cable. It's the cable I don't care about, not as much the HBO. Not to mention that it's easily more money for HBO as bandwidth is incredibly cheap, and that they could have *gasp* global reach.

    Until they decide to actually offer this standalone, I'll just continue to get episodes via alternate means.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 7:02am

    Re: Interesting to juxtapose a paywall may be going up:

    If YouTube chooses to do so, sure. People who wish to support it will. People who don't will look elsewhere. It's the same business principle you see everywhere.

    I'm not sure how this is supposed to be significant to anyone, aside from the loopy lube boy trying to scream the usual "GOOGLE FLARGHLE BLARG".

     

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  14.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 7:16am

    The end of cable

    I understand their reluctance because it would mean the end of cable TV. Since cable began people have wanted ala carte service where people could pick and choose which channels they pay for.

    If HBO did this, the other major cable channels would follow suit, and cable as it is now would crumble. And I think that's a good thing, but it will put a lot of people out of work, esp. those on little seen channels.

    And what will happen next? HBO will start adding "channels" to it's subscription to make it more attractive. You'll have HBO movies, HBO originals, HBO documentaries, HBO for women, HBO reality. You'll have a dozen ESPNs. Discovery and the Learning Channel and History Channel will partner to form the Education Network.

    The old cable TV monolith will become a dozen or so different subscriptions, all of them very much like the one cable you used to pay for, but there will no longer be one place to get everything.

     

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  15.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 7:26am

    Re: Re:

    Not to mention that it's easily more money for HBO as bandwidth is incredibly cheap, and that they could have *gasp* global reach.

    What I don't understand is why they don't team up with an existing system (Netfix, Hulu) to peddle their channel. Use someone who is already in the market instead of creating your own confusing service. It isn't like Netfix/Hulu and the other systems don't already have the capability of handling subscriptions and they are already what the consumer is familiar with. Hell, even iTunes would be a start.

    I am good with forking projects, but only when you provide better service than the other project can provide. HBO GO seems like a solution in want of a problem, and HBO could reduce their costs significantly by using existing technologies instead of rolling their own.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 7:34am

    Re: Re: Interesting to juxtapose a paywall may be going up:

    I'm afraid many will fail to do it right here. For Youtube it'll be a smashing success. For the content providers it all depends. It's yet one more channel for the artists to make money!

    If what they want is priced properly to the value, I'd go for it as a consumer (provided they removed the advertising, unlike Hulu's pay us for free content and we'll still give you the same commercials model, but then again, I still have a Hulu Plus account and still pay each month, so apparently it isn't enough to annoy me.)

    I'd buy into subscriptions for Nerdist/Geek & Sundry because I know those guys make good material, and I am willing to support them, as with RoosterTeeth, MinutePhysics and HISHE. But anything more than a couple bucks a year is probably too much for most folks. Hell, I'd even throw a little money towards collegehumor.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 8:12am

    Re:

    Contracts. They can't simply offer it everywhere unless the contracts they made to produce the shows allow it.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 8:18am

    Re:

    Hulu plus + amazon prime + netflix + hbogo would still be less than cable in my area and they still comes with a lot of perks cable never did.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 8:21am

    Re: Re:

    They've had at least a decade to stop writing stupid, antiquated shit into their production contracts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 8:23am

    Re:

    HBO is a subsidiary of a major cable company.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 8:25am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Control

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Dave Xanatos, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 8:25am

    Re:

    It's not necessarily the monthly subscription. I'm actually fine with being able to pay just for the 'channels' I want. It's more that they are all separate with their own apps or websites. It's a pain to try to go back and forth between them. I'd subscribe to more than just Netflix if I could get them all to just be embedded in the media center app of my choice.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 8:27am

    Re: The end of cable

    The subscription streaming services on the internet are already exhibit this kind of balkanisation but they're still very different from the cable you used to pay for since they all have their own rather unique perks beyond just on schedule access to TV content.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 8:30am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Because they're owned by Time Warner who is a major cable TV provider.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    ralph, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 8:34am

    The future is coming fast, and Hollywood is fighting it all the way.

    In the end, they will be completely overmatched. It is frustrating though to watch them try get in the way of anything good to protect what they have...disgusting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 8:47am

    Combine with Bram Cohen's new Bittorrent LiveStreaming protocol and there's a winning combination (http://torrentfreak.com/bittorrent-s-bram-cohen-patents-revolutionary-live-streaming-protocol-13032 6/).
    I must admit I suspect this is an april fools day...HBO doing stuff over the internet is, of course, hilarious.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Josef Anvil (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 9:09am

    Disturbing

    The most disturbing part about this is the HBO perspective that ISPs are just like cable networks. They seem to be under the impression that they can just barter a deal where they can bundle their service with a broadband offering.

    Ummmm no. Just tack on an additional $10 - $15 per month for HBO content? Maybe just maybe they are overvaluing their content. Sooooo HBO thinks that their content alone is worth more than everything on Netflix and worth entering into a contract with a broadband provider.

    It's this overvaluing of content which is driving the cord cutting.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 9:09am

    Bad idea to bundle it with an ISP.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 9:15am

    Re: Disturbing

    yeah they are pretending its like a cable network which isn't a good sign.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    akp (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 9:17am

    Re:

    It's not hard at all. But if by doing that they alienate all the cable providers, who then freak out and pull HBO (which they might do... Look at AMC and Comedy Central's issues with cable providers in the last couple years), suddenly jumping in to the unknown internet doesn't look like a good idea.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    akp (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 9:27am

    Re: Re: Re:

    It's because they're HBO! They're a special snowflake, whole unto themselves.

    Having said that, the only deal I see them making is with Apple, to add an "app" to the AppleTV.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 9:27am

    Re: Re:

    Indeed and that company is losing the opportunity of getting immune to cord cutting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 10:23am

    Re: Re: The end of cable

    Such as unscheduled access, which is the primary reason I don't have cable.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 10:27am

    Re: Disturbing

    People will pay $10-$15 a month if it's a reason for them to cut the cord, but eventually they'll realize paying more than Netflix just to watch one or two shows is not worth it.

    Eventually the service with the most content will win. That's how Netflix beat the video stores.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    Kevin H (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Evolve or die.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Bengie, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 11:19am

    ...

    "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"
    should be balanced with
    "If you wait for it to be broken, it's already too late"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 11:57am

    Re: Re: Interesting to juxtapose a paywall may be going up:

    I'm afraid many will fail to do it right here. For Youtube it'll be a smashing success. For the content providers it all depends. It's yet one more channel for the artists to make money!

    Of course, Google has done this before. They used to have "Google Video" which launched as a pay-for-video (with DRM) service around the same time that YouTube came about.

    Guess which one people used? Right. And that's why Google had to pay nearly $2 billion for YouTube a year later and then shut down Google video.

    Trying to do the same thing again... well... good luck.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 12:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Evolve or die.

    Maybe they are new world creationists and don't believe in evolution. Just as annoying and hopefully, just as short lived in the scheme of things too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
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    PRMan, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Actually, creationists believe in evolution as it relates to "evolve or die". They believe that the members of the species that are not fit will die off and the ones that are more fit will survive.

    "short lived in the scheme of things"

    Short-lived? Creationists have been around for thousands of years and involved every culture on earth. The "short-lived" belief is evolution.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    NaBUru38 (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 4:48pm

    It's just business for them. When executives start to believe that launching an online-only service will be profitable, they will do the switch. It's matter of time, that is, some things will have to change before it happens. Companies will have to change, consumers will have to change, technology will have to change, laws will have to change. (I'm talking from the perspective of company executives and owners, not mine.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    aidian, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 5:55pm

    All the cord cutting in the world won't change anything as long as the ISP market is a monopoly. Comcast/TWC/Whoever will get their average revenue per user one way or the other, and if that means they just jack up prices for internet access or cap/meter/gouge they'll be just fine doing it. Actually make things easier for them -- no more negotiations with content providers ever couple of years, no more fights over retrans fees and carriage, no more getting muscled into carrying ABC Family because their customers want ESPN.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    Niall (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 5:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I think he means the latest iteration of creationists, the ones who have access to the science yet reject it. There's nothing special about Isaac Newton being a 'creationist' - so was everyone else, as no-one knew any 'better'. But creationist favourite Dr Steve Austin? He has no excuse. These are the 'new world' creationists.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    Niall (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 5:40am

    Re: Re: Interesting to juxtapose a paywall may be going up:

    There's also the issue on how much they will geoblock anyone, which will of course ruin large chunks of its profitability.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
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    Niall (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 5:44am

    Re:

    Especially as they could make more than they make for the DVD box set...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
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    PT (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 2:54pm

    Re:

    Not only that, but they're available within minutes of an episode airing anywhere. It's possible for a guy on the West Coast to download and watch an entire episode before it even starts to air in his local time zone. Consider the appeal of that for someone who has to be up for work before 5am the next morning. It's convenience they would pay for.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
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    PT (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 3:03pm

    Re:

    Hello, Google Fiber! When are you coming to my town?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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