Correction: Earn My Money, HBO

from the it-shouldn't-be-that-hard dept

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the fact that HBO’s insistence on only offering its shows to cable susbcribers is driving a lot of people to piracy—many of whom have repeatedly said that they would gladly pay if HBO offered an on-demand service that’s separate from a cable package. By now you may have heard about the latest expression of this growing sentiment: the Take My Money, HBO! campaign, encouraging would-be customers to tweet HBO with the monthly amount they’d be wiling to pay for such a service, which has been getting quite a bit of attention since its launch.

It’s a good idea with a catchy hook, and I don’t write this post to condemn it—but I do think that, ultimately, the truth of the matter is a bit different: while there’s definitely a bunch of money being left on the table, it’s not there for the taking, it’s there for the earning. If HBO offered an on-demand service and it sucked (like if it was encumbered with pointlessly restrictive DRM) then it wouldn’t have any impact at all—because, just as with any other content industry, the true goal is to actually compete with piracy by offering a superior alternative with a genuine reason to buy.

Luckily for HBO, competing with piracy should be really, really easy in this case. The real message that comes from all these people asking HBO to “take” their money is that they aren’t satisfied with the pirated product. There are all sorts of drawbacks to pirated television: bad links, spammy sites, crappy videos, and the seeming eternity between when a much-anticipated show finishes airing and when it hits torrent sites and video lockers (in reality only about 10 minutes—but to true fans who want to participate in a shared event, it matters). All the people joining the Twitter campaign aren’t saying they want to pay for a worse option, or even a similar option; rather, they know that HBO can easily offer a far superior option, since it has the first-hand access to the material.

HBO has already done the job of earning people’s attention with its programming. Indeed, it’s clearly done a damn good job of that part. But at the end of the day it’s still a matter of earning their money by offering some true competition. Pirate sources have one thing going for them: availability. And availability is worth so much (when compared to HBO’s highly restricted access) that all HBO’s other advantages aren’t enough for it to compete. But the moment it met the pirates on their own field and matched them on that one thing, it would have every other advantage in the book, and could quickly supplant the competition—and earning that money might be very nearly as easy as taking it after all.

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Companies: hbo

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Comments on “Correction: Earn My Money, HBO”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not monthly

For prime time tv, networks generally get less than 50c per viewer per hour from the advertisers.
There is no real reason why you should charge viewers paying directly more and the lower the costs, the larger the potential audience. If the producers cut out the middle man completely then that’s fewer people to take a cut and that can only drive down the price to the viewer too.

Radioactivesmurf (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You sure got that right –

At this time it doesn’t make sense for HBO to offer anything different then what they are offering right now. They would not be able to sustain their business. They would lose lucrative cable contracts by offering a online subscription service that encourages cord cutting.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If only the cable companies weren’t the only way to get broadband speeds … these days…consumers would have options … and we’d not have 500 channels with 475 of them being infomericals.

What’s the matter with you – do you have something against choice? This way I can watch any infomercial I want any time I want, like a true-blue American viewer.

Seriously, do you have to be mentally ill, dumb as a post, or a memeber of Congres to watch that horseshit?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 D'oh! Preview first!

If only the cable companies weren’t the only way to get broadband speeds … these days…consumers would have options … and we’d not have 500 channels with 475 of them being infomericals.

What’s the matter with you – do you have something against choice? This way I can watch any infomercial I want any time I want, like a true-blue American viewer.

Seriously, do you have to be mentally ill, dumb as a post, or a member of Congress to watch that horseshit?

Brent (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m not arguing with you directly but with the logic HBO is using for this decision.

Like all other industries being affected by the digitization of media, HBO is at a critical moment: they must make a choice between sticking with what has been making them money and what the history of other industries in similar situations indicates will happen if they don’t adapt right now. While it would certainly be costly to sever their existing contracts with cable companies, it would certainly be more costly if their (paid) viewership declines dramatically due to the massive cord cutting that will happen in the next few years. They must take the loss now and move forward with a new business model or likely go out of business. Granted the latter will take a while to happen but they will start seeing negative subscribers/profits very soon. HBO has always showed a great deal of savvy when it comes to ‘knowing what people want to watch’ but unfortunately they aren’t as skilled at simply ‘knowing people’.

RD says:

Re: Re: Re:

“At this time it doesn’t make sense for HBO to offer anything different then what they are offering right now. They would not be able to sustain their business. They would lose lucrative cable contracts by offering a online subscription service that encourages cord cutting.”

Then they should





about “piracy” of their shows. Don’t want to offer it any other way? TOO BAD then, people WILL find a way. Alternatives exist whether you like it or not. Compete with those alternatives, or suffer the consequences. But stop whining about “loss” when YOU are the one not providing a way for someone like Diaz at comment #5 up there to get the thing legally and in an appropriate format (HD, not streamed, no DRM, proper subs).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

What should it profit a company if it should gain the world (or at least the over 2 billion people globally who have internet access) if the relatively small percentage of the US population that they access through the cable companies.

should really profit them quite a lot, but hey, if they don’t want that money that’s up to them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“They probably have a restrictive contract with the cable companies that doesn’t allow them to stream or offer this type of service.”

You almost have it right. The contracts are the key here, but not because they are “restrictive” – rather, they sell those rights to the cable companies in that manner because there is more money to be made there than there is to sell the episodes piecemeal – at least for now.

You always have to look at the bottom line. When you have people above suggesting prices like a quarter or 50 cents per episode, you can understand when a contract for a hundred million or more to a cable company is way more desirable.

So HBO isn’t going to step over a dollar to pick up pennies – especially when it can get the dollar today and still pick up the pennies tomorrow too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

This. They are still making a bunch of money, more than they’d make giving cord cutters a legitimate channel for their content. Until that changes, why the hell would they leave money behind?!

Reading the Forbes article, it’s clear that HBO isn’t stupid. They know where the money is right now, and they’re keeping an eye on that so they are ready when that changes. Once the cable companies stop offering them gobs and gobs of money for their content, HBOGO will become a standalone service. Until then, piracy isn’t hurting their bottom line at all, since they don’t rely on the pirates for income.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

So HBO isn’t going to step over a dollar to pick up pennies – especially when it can get the dollar today and still pick up the pennies tomorrow too.

The problem is that they won’t be getting those pennies tomorrow if they don’t figure it out and start adapting now. Every day they wait, there will be fewer pennies that they can get later.

If the record labels got on board with digital distribution 10-15 years ago, they would not be having so much trouble now.

If HBO wants to entirely focus on short term profits, they can. But I don’t want to hear them complaining to politicians and lobbying for laws to “fix” that decision in a few years.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Josh, there is no reason to adapt now. The individual download market isn’t there, there is not enough money in it, and there certainly isn’t the exposure and guaranteed income that exists with the cable deals.

“If HBO wants to entirely focus on short term profits, they can. But I don’t want to hear them complaining to politicians and lobbying for laws to “fix” that decision in a few years.”

There is no justification for piracy. If you don’t like the way they do business, don’t do business with them. But don’t take it as some odd permission to just steal the stuff anyway. It’s not there. HBO is making their choice, and you as a consumer can choose to do business with them or not. They aren’t just looking at the “short term”, they are looking at their overall business and making choices based on what is right today, and likely to be right in the longer term.

The online market has been developing for years now, but at this point, is still not a valid business model, and certainly not functional enough to replace what they are currently doing.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

there is no reason to adapt now.

If they want to be alive later, they need to adapt now. Keep making buggy whips while the market is changing, but when figure out how to replace your revenue before everyone stops buying them.

you’re a pirate, so you’re wrong, and I can’t actually respond to the point

What a compelling argument. /s

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

The real kicker here is that in both the ‘piracy’ and ‘do without’ scenarios the company isn’t making any money. However, only one of those options is likely to have people maybe pick up the product later, or talking about the product to their friends and family, who might be more willing or able to pony up the cash.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“Isn’t that what piracy is? The refusal to do business with them?”

No, that is refusing to pay – but still taking the product anyway. Using the price, the time, or whatever as a justification for piracy is just that, justifying an illegal act. If you don’t like the way they are offering the product, do without.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

For fuck’s sake, that’s what a lot of us do. I don’t watch Game of Thrones; I don’t watch anything live-action these days (been more of an animation person myself). Yet somehow, you shills waltz in every single day, and insist that if we don’t support the media companies we’re all filthy pirates who need to have their content attached to us via IV drips or end up downloading all of it online.

If you don’t do business with someone, you don’t get paid, period. I don’t want to do business with them, and I’m not even bothering to get their content. I am entitled to be free of this criticism because it’s no skin off my nose. What part of that is so hard to understand?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Who cares?
I don’t, they can all go under and I wouldn’t notice it.

What I do notice is granted monopolies trying to undermine long held cultural points that are the basis of the human race like sharing, not to mention the thread that granted monopolies pose to democratic values and the freeworld.

Daiz (user link) says:

What HBO would need to do to turn me from a pirate to a paying customer with Game of Thrones:

1. Offer DRM-free HD downloads of the episodes.
2. Just let me pay for individual episodes, but don’t expect me to pay more than $2 per episode (I’m still going to buy the BD box when it comes out just like I did with S1, so I’m not going to spend a fortune on what is essentially a TV watch)
3. Something very important: Offer subtitles! As someone who doesn’t speak English as their native language, I watch basically all American media with English dialogue-only subtitles. Naturally, HBO should offer both dialogue subtitles as well as full closed captions. External .srt files to go with an .mp4 main episode would work out just fine, as a tech-savvy person I can do the rest and style the subtitles like I want (and speaking of which, I hate how the industry is goddamn lazy when it comes to subtitles and basically all Blu-rays, including GoT S1 BD box, use bog-standard Arial as the subtitle font) and mux both the episode and the subs to an MKV.
4. And of course, their service should be available globally – if it was region/geoblocked to US only, we’d be right back at square one.

Unfortunately, something like this will probably never, ever happen. The whole state of legitimate digital video market is fucking pathetic. Everything is locked down with DRM, most things offer online streams only, very few download options exist (and all are laced with DRM), most content is only available in the US (Netflix has existed for over a decade already and we still have nothing that could seriously compare to it outside the US). It says a goddamn lot when a niche like anime has the largest worldwide legal availabity thanks to few players like CrunchyRoll, and even their service is far from ideal when it comes to availability.

Another thing that came to my mind – the first season of Lie to Me has been airing on TV around here, which I had been following. Unfortunately, I kept forgetting to watch it when it aired and missed episodes regularly. I got fed up with it, so I headed to the dreaded Bay of Pirates. What did I get? All three seasons of the show in HD, and all the seasons downloaded at the average speed of 2-3 MB/s. It didn’t take very long to get the first episode downloaded and by the time I was done watching that, the rest of S1 had pretty much finished downloading. Getting subtitles for each episode took a bit more effort, but not too much (first result in Google for “[show name] [episode number] english subtitles” worked wonders). In the end, I had DRM-free HD episodes on my HDD, which I could watch at any time I want whether my internet connection was working or not, and with nice English dialogue subtitles.

Later on when I was done with the whole show, I decided to take a look at what legal options I would have had for watching the show (besides trying to keep up with it on TV). What I discovered was that I wouldn’t be able to get the whole show in HD even if I wanted to – only the first season had a Blu-ray release, which I would’ve had to buy as an expensive US import (which obviously would not play “legally” on my BD drive due to region locking). Amazon’s video store had everything in HD, but it was $3 per episode, online streaming only (and I hate online streaming for media content for various reasons, most of them dealing with quality and playback options… and subtitles) and of course the whole shebang was region-locked to US-only. There was a DVD box of all the three seasons available here in Europe, but come the fuck on – I have a gorgeous 1080p TV to watch content with and the show was shot and composed in HD – I have zero interest in watching it in SD.

As grim as it is, I’m most likely doomed to pirating my video content for a long time to come. I’d seriously love to pay for legal alternatives (I’ve poured tons of money to digital copies of games, for example – games have pretty much the best legal digital availability out of all forms of media at the moment), since I know they could offer better service, quality and speed (the three factors that really make people pay) than piracy, but they sure don’t seem interested in actually providing any of that, because hey, they got some politicians to bribe for new copyright legislation and copyright lawyers to pay instead!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Offer subtitles!
As someone who doesn’t speak English as their native language, I watch basically all American media with English dialogue-only subtitles.”

Don’t the DVDs or BluRays for your region offer a localized audiotrack or subtitles?
Licensees for different regions usually have the responsibility to provide localized content like that, not the licensor.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“What I discovered was that I wouldn’t be able to get the whole show in HD even if I wanted to – only the first season had a Blu-ray release, which I would’ve had to buy as an expensive US import (which obviously would not play “legally” on my BD drive due to region locking).”

Almost any DVD or BluRay player can be unlocked to become region-free.
As to the imports being expensive, I happily pay top dollar for Japanese DVDs (far superior to most US versions of the same films), then play them on my region-free player!

Daiz (user link) says:

Re: Re:

The three-season DVD boxset that I was looking at only had subtitles in my own language for the first season, so for the sake of consistency I’d have probably watched it fully in English anyway. And honestly, even if it had subtitles in my language for all the seasons, I’d still rather download it illegally to get it in HD – when it comes to English media content, the technical quality of it matters much more than any translations, since I have no problem understanding English shows in English (especially when I have the dialogue subtitles that make sure I don’t miss anything – I always play games with subtitles on too for the same reason). Also, something I forgot to mention is that had I ordered said all-seasons DVD box, I’d have to have waited multiple days for it to arrive before I could have actually started watching it, whereas with the (illegal) digital downloads I could get to it in about 10 minutes after getting the idea “I could really watch some Lie to Me right now”.

Also, yes, of course you can play even region-locked BDs outside of the region it’s locked to, but that’s besides the point – as I mentioned in the post, I wouldn’t be able to play them “legally”. If I did buy the first season BD set, I’d most likely decrypt and dump the discs to my HDD, OCR the subtitles so I could fix up the timing (I always process subtitle timing to remove any annoying gaps between lines which cause annoying subtitle flashing), apply my own subtitle style and then watch it. Of course, this is basically illegal thanks to the law against DRM circumvention (which exists in my country too). Anyway, this is obviously way beyond what an “ordinary” customer would do, which is why I didn’t bring it up initially.

Have fun with those BDs/DVDs you import from Japan, by the way – I can only envy the amount of spare money you must have in order to afford paying the ludicrous prices they have for stuff around there (which I am also very familiar with). No way in hell could I do the same when I live on a student budget.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“1. Offer DRM-free HD downloads of the episodes.
2. Just let me pay for individual episodes, but don’t expect me to pay more than $2 per episode (I’m still going to buy the BD box when it comes out just like I did with S1, so I’m not going to spend a fortune on what is essentially a TV watch)”

+1 to this. I haven’t had cable for years, and I’ve been saying since well before I cut the cord completely that I’d pay a reasonable amount for high-quality DRM free downloads that don’t tie me to one company’s ecosystem.

Unfortunately no one wants to take my money.

silverscarcat says:

Re: Re:

“It says a goddamn lot when a niche like anime has the largest worldwide legal availabity thanks to few players like CrunchyRoll, and even their service is far from ideal when it comes to availability.”

That’s because anime fans decided instead of getting screwed over by television, they’d work together to make anime more enjoyable for everyone. Especially since so little anime ever gets licensed in the U.S. or elsewhere.

It’s why you see subtitled episodes of anime within a week of its airing in Japan, why manga gets scanned and translated within two days (for weekly stuff), or within 10 days (for monthly stuff) pretty regularly.

Don’t forget, anime and manga has been translated on the net since dial-up. Yeah, it sucked back then, but they did all they could.

Daiz (user link) says:

Re: Re:

To silverscarcat: Yes, I am very familiar with it. Anyway, even though the legal digital availability of anime is better than with other things, it’s still a pretty far cry compared to what the illegal alternatives, especially when you count in the fact that technologically speaking, the illegal anime releasing scene offers pretty much the most advanced high-quality video out there. Not to mention the obvious fact that illegal options are truly globally available whereas the legal alternatives are far from it.

Internet should really be declared a region of its own and treated separately from physical distribution. There are no borders on the internet – content available on internet should be available everywhere as long as you have access to the internet.

Another thing that really holds back legal options is exclusivity – let’s talk about anime for example. Every season, multiple companies bid for the rights to a series, and generally only the highest bidder gets the license and everyone else is left with nothing, or alternatively they get a multi-week delay or something equally stupid. This kind of business is really, really bad for the consumers – most of these companies only offer subscription services, so if you want to get everything you would need expensive subscriptions for multiple services. Alternatively, you’d have to deal with their free alternatives which are pretty much always terrible in quality and usually subject to delays too. And of course, for non-US customers it’s even worse – if someone that isn’t Crunchyroll manages to grab a license, it pretty much guarantees that you’re shit out of luck when it comes to watching said show legally. Though unfortunately even Crunchyroll seems to be doing worse and worse with their availability these days when many big-name titles are licensed for US streaming only.

Oh well, even if anime does somewhat “well” in regards to availability compared to other forms of video, there’s still the issue that basically all legal anime options are streaming-only… which severely limits their ability to compete with illegal alternatives in terms of technical quality. And unless a legal service can outdo illegal alternatives in speed, service and quality, they’re not going to be seeing any of my money. Right now they only manage to compete in the speed section (and they can’t even do it consistently – many shows only become available as legal streams days after the initial broadcast) and that is simply not enough.

Daiz (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Oh right, I totally forgot to talk about how things should rather be – ideally, exclusive show deals would not exist, and all shows would be licensed out / made available with revenue sharing on any service that is interested (services with global subscriptions would probably work better with the current model of licensing where a certain sum is paid beforehand for all episodes, but if episodes were sold individually I don’t see why pure revenue sharing wouldn’t work just fine). This would change things dramatically – companies could and most likely would actually compete in who can offer the best service, which would actually drive innovation and technology forward. As things are right now, the only “competition” between services is about who managed to get their hands on which show, and the technological progress has been next to non-existent at least when it comes to the technical quality of the video (and in the meantime the illegal alternatives have only got better tech-wise – for example, it was just last Fall when the illegal anime releasing scene adopted the usage of 10-bit H.264 for the sake of pushing video quality further).

Daiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So in the end, it’s really how the title of this article puts it – I’m not going to pay companies out of guilt or just because they put some half-assed effort into making things available digitally. They have all the cards for beating piracy in their hands. They can offer better service, speed and quality. The only thing they need to do is to actually play those cards, so they could actually start earning all that money sitting in the pockets of me and many others right now.

Anonymous Coward says:

10 minutes?

The faster I saw was an hour, you can almost set your clock by it. After an hour every show of the day appears magically on the interwebz. Of course this was 2 years ago when I stopped pirating anything from those companies and now only pirate free and open stuff.

ps: pirating for me has the same meaning as downloading, this in the case of the interwebz, in high sea I still have an mental image of Black Beard.

Also I wonder when those people will stop complaining that HBO is not offering them anything and start packing, well if HBO doesn’t care why should the people who like that stuff either?

This is exactly why I moved on to greener pastures, those people don’t see you and me as deserving anything we are tools for them and I am not empowering those jerks anymore.

Good riddance, keep your precious and stay the hell away from me.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

You lost me

“Prediction: they will never, ever do this. It’s not about the money. It’s about control.”

It can’t be about control because the product is already loose in the wild of the internets.

The insanity of it is that there are customers who are telling HBO “We want to BUY your product” and it seems that HBO’s stance is “Sure thing, get it through your cable co.” Unfortunately that means that if they complain about piracy, it’s their own damn fault for not taking the money being offered and then complaining when customers who actually use the internet go elsewhere.

I think they just don’t want to acknowledge that cord cutting is happening, and a lot faster than they expected.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Minor correction

There are all sorts of drawbacks to pirated television: bad links, spammy sites, crappy videos,…

While I agree with most of your points, the above is mostly incorrect. Yes, there are spammy sites, but most people (I hope) have figured out not to go to those, but instead join a private tracker or two. This also alleviates the bad links issue, and if 1080p HD video is considered crappy then I’d like to see what’s considered good video!

Anonymous Coward says:

Why do they prefer to make $10 off of me through my cable company for all of their programming more than making $3.99 an episode off of me on itunes, when I’d buy 4 episodes of each show per month? I cut the cord long ago. I was an early adopter of iTunes. I spend the money I would be spending on cable on iTunes. Actually, I spend some of it on jacked up charges, since my cable company charges more for internet if you don’t have cable too. That’s besides the point though. The point is, if you sell it in the formats we use, we will buy it. If you don’t we’ll just spend our money elsewhere on something that is in the format we choose to use. I’m not moving backwards, it’s time for businesses to move forwards.

Dave Reed (profile) says:

don't forget Customer Service

The CEO of HBO made a valid point. At the moment, they do not have a user-level customer service/tech support area. I am a Support Tech for an ISP and I guarantee they would get calls.

That would be a big call center, lots of people, lots of phone lines, etc. A not inconsiderable expense. Add that to the loss of income from cable and the (smaller, probably) income from streaming and I don’t know if I’d make a different decision right now either.

On the other hand, tossing the episodes to iTunes, a year after they show, could bring in a few bucks without much real cost.

Let’s face it: this is a transitional time and some companies will be ahead of the curve, and some will be behind. Being too far ahead will put you out of business just as surely as being too far behind.

I think I’m just really glad it isn’t my decision.

Kingster (profile) says:

Re: don't forget Customer Service

Would they get customer calls? Sure they would, especially on a Netflix-type streaming service. But… By bringing in a serious amount of money that they were previously losing, they could likely pay for that call center…

Another option is that they could work with Netflix (GASP!) and maybe license all of the HBO content to be streamed like on a 15 minute timeshift (show becomes available to stream 15 minutes after it starts to air for the first time), charge Netflix $6/month/actual subscriber, which Netflix would (or could) bump to $8. It could be an “add-on” service for Netflix (not something they currently have). You know… Like the a la carte we’ve been asking for from the cable and satellite industry for years!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Satellite had a la carte programming for years with c-band, it failed. People wanted bundling because they got more for less.

I’m not a fan of cable prices, but asking for a system that has already been tried, failed, and cost more doesn’t seem like the right direction to go in.

Kingster (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Satellite had a la carte programming for years with c-band, it failed. People wanted bundling because they got more for less.

I’m not sure that’s why C-band failed. I’d be more apt to say that C-band failed due to the high cost and knowledge requirements of entry. Who wants to put an 8-foot dish, with a tri-axis alignment system on a concrete pad? How do you do that in your apartment? On top of all of that, you had to know how to program your receiver. And you could only watch what the expensive receiver was showing (negating multi-room, multi-channel viewing).

No… I’d say that “bundling” had nothing to do with the “failure” of C-band.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: don't forget Customer Service

On the other hand, tossing the episodes to iTunes, a year after they show, could bring in a few bucks without much real cost.

Your above suggestion would also alleviate them of the tech support issues. However, a year after they show??? Do not want. How about tossing the episode to iTunes an hour after it airs?

Anonymous Coward says:

To HBO if they offered their content places other then cable they wouldn’t be able to charge the millions of cable subscribers who DON’T watch HBO as much for buying HBO as part of a giant cable channel package.

Ahh the ultimate irony, millions want HBO but won’t buy cable just for HBO, and millions pay for HBO with zero intent on ever watching it, simply because they’re forced to pay for it to get other channels.

I believe in most types of businesses this would be called extortion, or fraud, or illegally cooperating with your competitors & illegal price fixing.

JP (profile) says:

Sadly, It Won't Happen

There is no way the cable companies will allow this. How do I know? I am currently an HBO subscriber and a Roku owner. I am also a Comcast subscriber. Comcast will NOT allow HBO to allow me to access my PAID for HBOGO account on my Roku. No rhyme, no reason – just no GO!

If they will not allow a paying subscriber of their system access a feature I am paying for on a specific device because they don’t like it, what makes anyone think that they (big cable) are going to allow HBO to give access to a “cord cutter”.

PacNWestViewer says:

We want HBO/Cinemax programming packages

Missing from this conversation are the limited choices in the current cable/satellite provider business models that “FORCE” consumers to purchase bloated packages if they even want access to HBO.

HBO used to be bundled with Cinemax as a stand-alone package. Today that’s not even an option. In order to even get access to HBO we’re “FORCED” to subscribe to overly priced bundled programming packages that include dozen’s of channels we never watch, will never watch and in effect and in reality are subsidizing these other crappy stations to have access to HBO.

How about bringing back the HBO/Cinemax package so we can afford to keep our cable instead of cutting it?!

Nick (profile) says:

You really think that people are trying to give money to HBO here because they claim HBO will give out a better deal? It’s hard to believe that Anything will beat an instantly available, fast download, multiple portable formats, self correcting (the scene corrects encoding errors when they care), offline, non-DRMed files for free.

The only downside, is guilt, and the occasional stern letter from a copyright agency or a temporary cutoff of internet from their ISP.

People were guilted into publicly demanding the “right” choice for consuming this content the way they want to, but isn’t available the way they want to. The fact this big corporation is deaf to their pleas is not a surprise to me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The bigger downside is when enough people stop paying, the incentive to create GoT quality programming dries up.

Why would HBO create something as expensive as GoT when no one is willing to pay for it?

I don’t pay out of guilt, I pay because I want more to be created, and money is a great incentive for getting what I want.

Nick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not condoning 100% piracy rates

I wasn’t exactly trying to say that because pirated copies are so perfect, they are thus the ONLY copies people should ever get, more that… currently, the only thing going in HBO’s favor right now is guilt factor. People only keep paying because it’s wrong to not do it.

If only we lived in a virtual reality. I’d like to see what would happen in HBO did the following:

Told cable companies it stopped exclusive partnering (I doubt they even do that. I think it’s the cable companies that are bowing to the big TV channels rather than the channels bowing to the providers). It was going to provide the shows at the same time or perhaps a day later, online, for 1-2 an episode. These shows are 100% DRM free, not tied to any online account, 100% transferable, 100% copyable, 100% mobile. For small fees, you can redownload modified versions formatted for various devices such as for play on iPads, Kindle fires, mobile phones, etc.

Of course, because of the loss of exclusivity, the high price point of the channels loses it’s value, so HBO can drop to $5 a month rather than it’s 15.

In the end, More people will likely pick up HBO in their package because it’s cheaper, as well as purchase episodes of their shows, possibly multiple times for every device they have, for every show they have, and more people will do this. Current pirates that claim to do so because there is “no other choice” now have their choice. It is in their format. It is in a price range for their liking. It is DRM free.

Will HBO end up making more money… or less for all this?

Daiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The people who actually produce the content could easily beat out the scene in every possible way. They could offer their content faster (it still takes a while for scene releases to hit public trackers, streaming sites, etc – especially for HD encodes), in any format (scene has their rules which they abide by for releases, and anything outside those rules is up to the whims of the P2P scene), with more convenience (no terribly seedy sites for streams, easier downloading options, giving options for both streaming & downloading) and so on. They have all the means to beat illegal alternatives in speed, quality and convenience. If they did all that and the price wasn’t ludicrous (say $2 max per episode), I am absolutely positive that it would attract a massive amount of customers. Some people will obviously still keep pirating (there’s always a portion of people like that), but we know not to give a crap about those people and just focusing on delivering the most awesome service possible.

As has been said, piracy is a service problem. And the answer to that is to provide awesome services that people want to use – which will directly lead to people paying for said services.

Anonymous Coward says:

Put it on neflix, im not interested in paying yet another monthly subscription

Nothing stopping them ecxept themselves, if its not easy, i.e. obligations, contractual arrangements at least make an effort to talk to them and ask if they’d be willing to amend, to compensate for a “unforseeable” situation

Ed C. says:

It's all about the convenience

All of the publishers associations like to think their product is fine wine and treat the carriers as though they’re inconsequential as a bottle by charging them ridiculous fees. To them, they’re product is all that matters and would virtually sell itself no matter how it’s packaged. Just like how there’s mass mobs buying boxed wine.

The more likely reality is that people buy boxed wine because it’s convenient, not because it’s good. The general quality of cable’s offerings is a testament to the fact that convenience can be far more important than quality. Cable, however, was sort of like an exclusive all you can eat restaurant, people have to pay to enter and only can have whatever happened to be on the menu at that moment. They may have heard that there’s better wine on the menu earlier in the day, but they have to work or have other commitments in life that make getting the good stuff impossible. Yet, they keep paying for the convenience, regardless of what crap was served, and hoped that someday the good stuff would be around when they came.

Then someone invented the bright idea of having a robot order at the customers’ request. Even though the VCR tape was more like a small basket, only able able to hold a few items, the robot was around all day and could take as much as it could hold. Now, customers could have the best the restaurant had to offer, day or night, completely redefining the service and the public’s conception of convenience.

The publishers and broadcasters were furious! They insisted that customers had to not only be in the restaurant to enjoy their boxed wines and could only order whatever they placed on the menu at that time, the customer had to suffer the snake oil salesmen who paid to be there. The courts disagreed; as long as the customer had the right to enter the restaurant and abided by the rules, they could have a robot receive the order and snake oil flyers in their place. Then, newer robots, DVRs, came along with bigger baskets and better user-friendly interfaces, again redefining and improving the customers experience. The publishers and broadcasters hated that these robots were providing far better service from their restaurants than they were! The courts again disagreed, and eventually the broadcasters started selling their own robots. They were fairly substandard, but they were more convenient.

At some point, the broadcasters started selling passes to the big flee market, the Internet. Even though the venues were dirty and unorganized, they didn’t care as long as their customers were still paying to enter their restaurant as well. Some of the flee market venues grew and cleaned up their space, attracting more patrons and purveyors. Eventually, the broadcasters’ customers were no longer limited to the small offerings from the restaurants, they could get wines from all over the world! This again redefined the public’s conception of convenience.

The publishers eventually started selling their wines at some of these venues as well as an “after market” for extra profits after the restaurants stopped serving it. However, their offerings were not from just the tiny time-limited menus like the restaurants, but almost all of their wines! They did agree with the broadcasters to delay the sales by weeks, or even months, because they knew that otherwise few would have any reason to go to the restaurants anymore. They still believed that the wine was the most important, not how it was served, and the broadcasters still believed that they offered the best service that commended their premium rates because they got the wines first. Yet, more and more people are flocking to the market to get wine, any wine, simply because the venues in market can offer them anytime, anywhere, and in almost any packaging. There’s even an increasing number of market restaurants with far wider selections and longer availability than any of the traditional ones.

How can this be happening if it’s really all about the product, as the publishers claim? Simple, because it’s really all about the convenience.

Anonymous Coward says:

Umm… at the risk of being the turd in the punchbowl, have we all forgotten who owns HBO? They’re owned by the same company who, up until 2009, also owned one of the largest cable companies in the U.S.. While there may no longer be any direct corporate affiliation between Time Warner Cable and Time Warner Inc., you can bet that there’s still a great deal of crony capitalism at large between the two entities. Why on earth would Time Warner/HBO take any steps at all to encourage cable cord cutting? Yes, it sucks mightily, I hate it with every fiber of my being; my only point is that endeavors such as this are doomed to fall on the deafest of ears.

mikey4001 (profile) says:

Respectfully disagree

I generally agree with most of the ideas posted around here, but I think I will respectfully disagree with this one. One of the recurring themes on this site is the “Reason To Buy.” HBO has created top quality programming (compared to most other TV), which is also available to subscribers both on-demand and on mobile devices. They also have a respectable web presence (sans episodes) for the more popular shows. This, at least to me, seems like a fairly compelling “Reason To Buy”. For the 15 or 20 bucks a month I pay for HBO, it seem like a good deal. If I paid $2 per show for just the shows and and movies I watched, it would be as much as the cost of a subscription, maybe more.

Yes, it is technologically possible, and perhaps even feasible, to offer streaming/downloading over the internet in order to obtain the content independent of a subscription, but that’s what DVDs/BRDs are for. If you absolutely must have it right now as soon as it airs, you can always get HBO. This site often touts the “social aspect” of theater-going as one of the services that pirates can’t match. It is probably this same social aspect that drives much of this talk of “I want it now, but without a subscription.” We want to be able to talk about it and watch it with friends while it’s still fresh. Why is this considered a legitimate “Reason to Buy” for a movie theater, but not for HBO?
I hate to sound like a shill, but I have enjoyed being an HBO subscriber, and they continue to offer compelling reasons for me to remain one.

Again, I’m not trying to be disagreeable, I just disagree.

I will certainly concede that I have to pay entirely too much to the cable company to get the basic-> expanded-> digital-> HD package-> and THEN get HBO for 15 or 20 bucks. However, to me that seems more like a “big picture” problem, and deserving of a different conversation than just “HBO needs to wise up.” I will also concede that if the wife didn’t require her vampire porn, that I would likely be cutting the cord soon, but HBO would be one of the few things I actually missed. As another poster suggested, I would gladly throw another 15 bucks or so on top of a Netflix subscription to get HBO that way instead.

Daiz (profile) says:

Re: Respectfully disagree

Your arguments might be compelling if it wasn’t for the fact that you ignore one very huge factor in this discussion. For a huge number of people, it’s impossible to get a HBO subscription, because they live in this place called The Rest of the World That Isn’t the United States. Like me. I couldn’t pay money to watch Game of Thrones as it airs in the US even if I wanted to, and as you point out, that is something of quite large importance in the social factor of things. A cable pay channel around here is showing Game of Thrones at the moment, but they’re like three or so weeks behind. A free public channel will air it later on, but there’s still about six months before they start with that. This was actually something that was brought up in a local forum recently: It has a one section for following TV series as they air in the US, and another section for when they air on local TV. A couple people who were following it on the pay channel a few weeks behind the US airing said that they felt quite left out, since they can’t participate in the US-pace discussion due to spoilers, and they won’t be able to participate as “new viewers” during the local public TV airing in six months either.

And personally, I wouldn’t want to spend my money on a full HBO subscription either way even if I could afford it and could get it – I simply don’t watch enough US TV entertainment to justify that. Game of Thrones is one of the mere four US TV series that I’ve actually watched regularly during the past year, and the only HBO show at that. This is why I would rather just buy its episodes individually as digital downloads. Right now, I’ve pirated the TV airings of both seasons of GoT and bought the BD box for S1 as soon as it came out, and I plan on doing the same for S2, but I sure as hell don’t have any interest in relying on the “comes out a year after the season started airing” BD boxes for first-time watching.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

So I have a puzzle I need to work out here, and lack data.

How much does it cost to add HBO to a cable subscription?
How much of that fee does HBO actually get?
How much does HBO get for their offerings on each viewing of on demand programming?

I am wondering if HBO would be better off offering $2 download of the episodes and putting that directly into their pocket rather than trying to keep fighting over getting a quarter of a cent more from each contract with each provider.

Imagine what it could do if we got our entertainment via a Netflixesque model. Only pay for what you actually want rather than a huge fee for a bunch of “service” you will never use.

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