HBO Hooks Up Nordic Cord Cutters; Offers Standalone Streaming Service

from the start-chopping dept

HBO has been fighting cord-cutters in the US for the past several years, refusing to offer a standalone product in any form. Its mobile offering, HBO Go, requires purchasing a subscription to HBO, and even with all the cords still connected and money laid out on the table, you're still limited to certain devices. This insistence on keeping subscribers attached to cable companies they'd rather be living without has seen HBO consistently topping the “Most Pirated” charts. Obviously, HBO would prefer “Most Subscribed,” but why buy the milk when you can get whole cow for free, minus the cableco remora?

In a move sure to please certain Europeans, HBO is now offering a completely cord-free option.

The service, named HBO Nordic AB, will allow customers in Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark to stream subtitled versions of the same content available in the US. Original series like Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire, as well as movies that are featured by the channel, will be streamable at HBONordic.com.

The service is cheap ($6-12.50/month) and gives Nordic viewers a fairly good selection of the channel's offerings. As Ars Technica points out, this move may be a reaction to Netflix's announcement that it would be offering its services in the same region. No doubt HBO would be happier placing further down the “Most Pirated” charts and Netflix has been proven to be one of the better “pirate killers.” Offering a reasonably priced streaming option with all normally-attached strings detached is a good start.

In addition to cordless service, HBO will also be shredding its usual timetable. Currently, weeks or months pass between original airdates and the programs' appearance in countries like Norway and Sweden. With HBO Nordic AB, programs will be available to stream within a few hours of the original airtime.

Providing a desirable service at a good price and with a minimum of windowed “scarcity” is one of the only ways to put a dent in filesharing. Hopefully, HBO recognizes this and considers expanding this service into other countries. Here in the US, unfortunately, the symbiotic relationship between the movie studios, cable companies and premium offerings like HBO is too far ingrown to imagine this has even the slimmest chance in hell of becoming a reality. But, if it knocks HBO off the “Sharing Is Caring” lists, who knows? Maybe everyone involved (or at least, two-thirds) will see the potential, rather than morosely counting the “potential” losses. I can't see an offering like this making US cable companies happy, but really, does anyone care if Time Warner, Comcast, Cox, etc. find themselves on the business end of “The Shaft” for a change? 

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Companies: time warner

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Comments on “HBO Hooks Up Nordic Cord Cutters; Offers Standalone Streaming Service”

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22 Comments
Daiz (profile) says:

As a Finn, I will most likely check their service out, though mostly to see how it fares against the less legal methods in terms of convenience, quality and so on. There are many small things that could go wrong and ultimately make using the service more annoying than what it’s worth, but all in all, I have to congratulate them for doing something that could be actually dubbed progressive in the digital market for video.

I just wish that beyond all these monthly subscriber streaming plans that everyone seems to be so fond of, we could also purchase DRM-free downloads for individual shows. They could do this in the same service, and make it so that any individually purchased content could then be streamed or downloaded freely anytime the user wants on whatever device, even if they don’t have an active catalog streaming subscription. Unfortunately, actual downloads seem to be a rarity in the digital market for video, and the few options that exist are limited to a single country and laced with layers of DRM. In that sense, the legal options still have a lot of catch-up to do in comparison to the illegal alternatives.

Anonymous Coward says:

” With HBO Nordic AB, programs will be available to stream within a few hours of the original airtime.”

This isn’t exactly as good as you think, considering many of these areas may be on up to a 1 year delay compared to the US network release dates.

Further, the price at 10 Euros isn’t really an improvement over the cable or dish prices generally charged. Considering they are taking out all of the middle men cable companies and such, it seems like they are just going to rake in more money. How does this price actually compare to the current cable TV market in these areas?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“” With HBO Nordic AB, programs will be available to stream within a few hours of the original airtime.”

This isn’t exactly as good as you think, considering many of these areas may be on up to a 1 year delay compared to the US network release dates. “
Based on the previous sentence, it sounds like it’s within a few hours of the US airtime, not the original nordic airtime.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well, I don’t know about the countries in question, but one of the most basic cable subscriptions in my country (from a company which shall remain unnamed), in which, funnily enough, you only get the 4 channels that you already get freely over the air, costs ?9.99/month. You also get a phone line with a decent phone plan, so it is not a total loss.

The full channel grid (111 channels) costs around ?33/month. Something in the middle (30-some channels) costs around ?25/month.

All this, without Internet access and no access to premium channels. If you take a mid-level package that includes 100mbps internet+phone+all channels, you are looking at around ?50/month. It can reach almost ?100/month depending on the internet connection speed and if you want the “premium” channels or not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It is basically the same in Denmark. Except that 100 mbps is very underdeveloped since the owners of copper cable are getting the money for rolling out real cables… Copper has a capacity of up to 12/2 mbps, a comparably priced fiber connection is 15/15 mbps and is far cheaper in the long term for all parties. The cost of putting the cables in the ground and getting permission to do it, however, is a nightmare.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This isn’t exactly as good as you think, considering many of these areas may be on up to a 1 year delay compared to the US network release dates.

From a few years to a few hours. Yeah, definitely an involution. /sarc

Further, the price at 10 Euros isn’t really an improvement over the cable or dish prices generally charged.

If you only want select channels but you are obliged to shell out more Euros because you are forced to buy packages of channels (and buying sinlge ones is uber expensive) then maybe 10 euros isn’t that much. In my case it would be a HUGE improvement in price even if I paid another 10 euros for Netflix. I’m in Brazil and it would be cheaper for me to pay for those services in euros than to keep my cable subscription that has a lot of garbage and fixed times (ie: I can’t watch whenever I actually have time.

Sophie says:

Re: Re:

HBO Nordics promises shows in the Scandinavia within 24 h after the US, but yes, previously it has been up to 1 year. Extremely frustrating, and hence the high streaming/downloading.

Regarding pricing. At least in Norway you buy sets of channels where a basic set is around $50-60/month, however some channels offers web based showing for approx $5/month. Not nearly as good shows as HBO though. For those kind of shows you will have to buy the set of channels and wait a month or two (or three) before you can watch the newest episode.

Hope that cleared up some things for ya.

Christoph Wagner (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Maybe it’s not an improvement over the cable and dish prices. But I’d still buy it (If I could. Sadly as a German, I can’t).

Why? Because I can’t get those networks anyway. I have absolutely no legal way to get that content in a timely fashion. I’d need to wait for the DVD release (or for it to be on iTunes, but I can see nothing convincing me to create an Apple account).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Oh wow...

Exactly what I thought when I read this. Finally I can “pay” for all those episodes of The Wire and Game of Thrones and other HBO shows I’ve been torrenting. I seriously doubt it will be an even remotely better service than downloading a 720p rip which I can conveniently put in my Plex, but at least this way I can pay the content creators (?) SOMEHOW…

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