HBO Has A Distribution Problem, But Just 'Going Without' Does Nothing To Push Them To Solve It

from the at-this-point,-the-content-providers-are-being-deliberately-obtuse dept

Many, many posts and discussions have taken place here at Techdirt about content providers and their love of windowed releases. A point frequently made is that there would likely be a lot less piracy and a lot more purchasing if these 30/60/90 day rental/PPV/premium cable windows were eliminated on new releases. Another frequent target are premium cable providers and their original offerings, which suffer from long delays between original airings and their appearance on retail shelves.

More discussion is on the way! It started with a piece in the Guardian by Frederic Filloux arguing, as many have, that release windows lead to more piracy when it comes to cable TV programs. Megan McArdle responded to that article by arguing that such an argument is totally bogus, and the cable execs are brilliant business folks that many of us only dream of being one day. Then enter Marco Arment, agreeing with McArdle, saying that it’s wrong to argue that cable companies are “forcing” people into piracy:

Realistically, nobody’s going to stop you from pirating it, but you can’t argue that you’re justified in pirating it. Admit it: you’re ripping it off, it’s morally questionable at best (and illegal), but you don’t care. You’re pirating a TV show because you don’t want to pay for it or wait for it to become available in the ways you want. You’re not making any kind of statement or participating in a movement — you’re just being cheap and/or impatient. If you don’t have the fortitude to cope with that, then don’t pirate.

If you want to hit cable companies, HBO, etc. where it hurts — if you truly want to send a message that there’s unmet demand they should be addressing — don’t watch their shows. At all. Don’t even pirate them. Don’t blog or tweet or face (?) about how good they are. Just don’t watch them.

That’s a real statement. And if enough people do it, that movement will effect change.

There's a questionable moral argument in there, but the troublesome part is in the second paragraph. Not watching a show doesn't send the message that there's unmet demand. It sends the message there's very little or no demand, which is exactly the wrong message to send if you're trying to motivate HBO, etc. to either speed up its delivery system or offer a la carte service.

Arment expands on this thought process on a followup post, which deals mainly with the “statement” sent by piracy:

Actually, piracy does make a statement — it’s just the wrong statement. If you truly want to pressure content providers to adapt new distribution channels, and you’re not just trying to justify getting everything for free, piracy is hurting your cause.

Most geeks try to justify piracy because the content isn’t available on our terms. We can’t get it in our country, we can’t get it as quickly as we want, it costs more than we want to pay, we can’t get it on the device we want, or we can’t get it in the format we want. Publishers have a distribution problem.

But when publishers see widespread piracy of their content, they don’t see the distribution problem. They think they have a piracy problem.

Ament is right. HBO, et al have a distribution problem. But simply refusing to watch or purchase the content sends two messages, neither of which will result in an overhaul of the distribution system. (The following uses HBO as an example, but it could any major motion picture studio, premium cable service or other distributor. But, HBO is the most pirated.)

1. If viewership falls or purchases drop off, HBO may decide there's no viable market for these programs and simply stop making them. This protects HBO's bottom line, but it does nothing for its future endeavors as it's drawing the wrong conclusions from the data.

2. HBO may simply view the dropoff to be the result of piracy rather than “viewer opt-out” and resort to the actions mentioned by Arment, including pushes for more anti-piracy legislation as well as limiting its exposure through increasingly onerous DRM or windowing.

Because piracy will never be nonexistent, it's impossible to create a control group that includes only potential purchasers of HBO's content. The only course of action left is for HBO is to experiment with faster turnaround and price reductions and see if these “forced pirates” are willing to put their money where their torrent is. To date, HBO has been unwilling to do this, at least in the US. Other premium cable companies have drastically reduced the turnaround of their shows and HBO itself offers a standalone streaming service in northern Europe, both in an effort to combat piracy. As its stands now, HBO's contracts with cable providers are far too lucrative to consider changing up its release strategy by going a la carte or trimming down the wait between debut and retail, at least not on a larger scale.

The problem with price/window experimentation is that altering these two factors in order to convert more pirates into viewers and purchasers will make cable companies extremely unhappy. HBO may find that it does very well with faster/cheaper releases but it won't ease its relationship with its most lucrative customers (at this point): cable companies. They already worry about cord-cutting and it's quite possible that current contracts prohibit HBO from undercutting its core market, which isn't viewers, but cable providers.

What piracy does do, regardless of “morality” or “making a statement” or anything else along those lines, is indicate demand. The content providers know people are watching their offerings, many times without paying. What they have to do is make the determination as to whether that audience is worth pursuing. At this point, many seem to believe it isn't. Very few companies have made any moves to drastically alter the artificial limits of the supply chain in order to capture some of the “un-monetized” market.

As Arment points out, the “half-empty” view of the content glass usually results in legislation and litigation rather than any serious attempts to solve the distribution problem. Pirating because you're “forced” into it simply feeds into these companies' dim view of the online market. But, unless these companies begin experimenting with the distribution process, there's no way to gauge the conversion rate. Doing things the way they've always been done will keep the status quo — and people will continue to exercise the option to get the content on their own schedule.

So, Arment's right: pirating because of distribution limitations will continue to send the “piracy problem” message to HBO, Showtime, etc. While other companies view pirates as underserved customers, the movie and TV industries seem stuck viewing piracy as only a problem, rather than an opportunity. Trying to hit them in the wallet by refusing to watch or purchase will send the same message (because piracy will continue to be a “thing”) — piracy is hurting sales/viewership — or worse, that the audience no longer exists.

This screwed up situation can't be solved by asking viewers to sit on their hands and wait patiently for a better distribution system, no more than it can be solved by having every ridiculous delay greeted by visits to The Pirate Bay. But only one of these actions indicates unmet demand. 

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Comments on “HBO Has A Distribution Problem, But Just 'Going Without' Does Nothing To Push Them To Solve It”

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Anonymous Coward says:

This article does an excellent job of highlighting a few issues. *WHY* should HBO change it’s distribution policy? Believe it or not, changing it something sane would likely impact their bottom line heavily. They have contracts, and breaking said contracts often incur penalties, and me buying reasonably priced shows is less money in their wallet than windowed releases and their cable contracts provide. They aren’t too stupid to serve the demand, they just realize that not serving the demand and ranting about piracy gives them more money.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

they just realize that not serving the demand and ranting about piracy gives them more money.

It might. That assumes that they cannot significantly grow their market (expanding the pie) by offering a better alternative.

It might get them more money now, but cost the a lot more money later. Taking the inevitable growth of cord-cutters and cord-nevers, HBO has no distribution route to the only growing sector. If they don’t get that group hooked or subscribed to a new distribution method now, they may never get a dime out of them later, because other companies will have got them first. It’s just like Napster – what would have happened if the music companies could have co-opted it instead of killing it?

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That there is the potential for MORE money is irrelevant when you have share holders to please

As a shareholder who owns direct shares of publicly traded companies, I find your statement overly simplistic. While there are many who only care about the next quarter dividends and share price, some of us want stable companies that are able to adapt and see long-term, even at the result of a couple of quarters of mediocre financial statements. Any shareholder who wants the company they have invested money into to keep doing business as usual while their competitors are eating them alive is crazy.

shane (profile) says:

Re: It goes to motive

The entire purpose of copyright is to deliver a monopoly in order to jack up prices. The issue here is that on the one hand we have the Sherman Act that outlaws the artificial constraint of trade and price fixing, and on the other hand we have Intellectual Property laws. If IP always followed the originator, that would be one thing, but it does not. Large corporations now use IP to enforce monopolies for their own benefit whether or not it benefits the creators. Further, if the creators are in bed with the corporations to begin with, then they deserve no sympathy for conspiring to fix prices.

I think we take far too sympathetic a view of the “artist” these days. The best of them have always sought out powerful and wealthy patrons. These patrons have always used their talents to further their own ends. We don’t owe them anything, and far from needing some incentive to create, you could hardly shut the vast majority of them up even if you used surgical staples and a gallon of super glue on their lips.

shane (profile) says:

Re: Quality of Content Issue

It’s funny, but I wouldn’t go five feet out of my way for most of the content that comes from HBO. I do not buy OR pirate it because, to me, it is limp milk toast garbage. Copyright combined with corporate anti-competitive practices work together to limit the type and quality of entertainment that is generally available and, despite the promise of the internet to broaden the horizons of what could be seen and heard by most people, these people seem bound and determined to extend their barbaric sense of “art” to monopolies there as well, even if it means trashing the technology behind the internet in the process.

I again respectfully submit to you that we are being far, far too sympathetic to so called “artists” who cooperate with the corporate anti-competitive elite. They need to start suffering for their support of this sort of undemocratic collusion with the worst that this world has to offer in terms of socio-economic freedom and fairness.

Carlos Sol?s a.k.a. ArkBlitz (in the rest of the I (profile) says:

"Fortitude to cope"?

The entertainment industry is, perhaps, the only economic field where their leaders expect a large portion of their potential clients to not “consume their content” if they’re unable to meet their demands. Heck, they even routinely blame them for not having the “fortitude to cope” with the unavailability of their favorite show, instead of, you know, actually expanding their market and making their productions more readily available.

Charles says:

@Anonymous Coward You don’t have to pirate HBO shows: you could not watch them. Saying you have to comes off entitled. I think that’s a large part of Arment’s. Still, Cushing’s response is important. You, and all of the other pirates, would love to by buying more HBO content, just not at the expensive prices and with the annoying delays that happen now. And if HBO saw you not as a pirate but as a potential customer (i.e. they thought of this as a distribution problem not a piracy problem), then maybe we could get some solutions. Arment’s “solution” does nothing to convince HBO to see you that way.


Re: Paying the rent versus moral pomposity.

Ignoring HBO is pretty much irrelevant. All it does is allow you to pat yourself on the back for being “morally superior”. It doesn’t address anyone’s underlying problems. Piracy may be evil and immoral but it at least gives the suits at HBO Corp some data to look at.

Being “morally superior” does nothing to help HBO plan for the future.

It doesn’t help HBO in any way. In a roundabout way it actually does them harm in the end. In this situation, the “moral” answer is not the best answer in terms of economics and making a buck.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

The problem is once you’ve aired the content, it’s available to everyone.

I don’t subscribe to cable, but if I want to watch one of HBO’s programs, I can choose to wait around for 6-12 months for their release date, but all that time I know it’s out there and available somewhere online. Making me wait only increases the likelihood that I’ll pirate. I just sit there thinking “Why am I waiting? It’s already been released.”

out_of_the_blue says:

"their love of windowed releases." -- is THEIR right.

You guys love to brag that you know how to fix the industry even though your experience in that industry and record of successful productions (at large scale) is almost zero. Just like Big Media, you cling to your mistaken arrogance despite my efforts. I suppose you’ve a right to be wrong, if that’s all you can be.

Then you lurch toward meta-problems: here, that “consumers” have almost no control over Big Media. Well, that’s “capitalism” for you. The Rich don’t have to care about individuals because far larger masses of dolts go for anything. It’s a big part of why I switched many years ago to the belief that BIG IS BAD in and of itself. The only way to make The Rich respond is to limit their money and power. You’re still of the notion that the present plutocracy works the way “capitalist” purists claim, in spite of all evidence that it’s not a meritocracy.

Anyhoo, tax the hell out of The Rich until they’re small enough where your input matters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "their love of windowed releases." -- is THEIR right.

You guys love to brag that you know how to fix the industry even though your experience in that industry and record of successful productions (at large scale) is almost zero.

Exactly, which is why no one can review a movie unless they’ve made one at least as good as the one they’ve reviewing.

Milton Freewater says:

Re: Re: "their love of windowed releases." -- is THEIR right.

“Exactly, which is why no one can review a movie unless they’ve made one at least as good as the one they’ve reviewing.”

Also, no one should ever have to take a complaint from a customer who doesn’t work in the industry they’re complaining about.

Don’t like glass in your food? So what? Your experience in the restaurant industry and record of successful meals (at large scale) is almost zero.

wallow-T says:

Premium cable business model:

A) Publicize their programming wall to wall to convince people they can’t have a complete life if they don’t watch the show.

B) Work to ruin the lives of a significant number of people who accept this marketing premise, that watching this program is essential to a complete life.

C) Demand that the full power of the state serve this business model.

Robert (profile) says:

"their love of windowed releases." -- is THEIR right.

It’s a big part of why I switched many years ago to the belief that BIG IS BAD in and of itself. The only way to make The Rich respond is to limit their money and power. You’re still of the notion that the present plutocracy works the way “capitalist” purists claim, in spite of all evidence that it’s not a meritocracy.

And yet you defend the actions of BIG and BAD entertainment companies…

You, sir, are one hilariously complicated, hypocritical individual.

Anonymous Coward says:

The “pirates are just being cheap / just want stuff for nothing” argument does not work.

It says that wanting to get things for the cheapest price (which could include zero) is wrong. That cannot be correct, because exactly that impulse is how the whole market system works. The seller wants the highest price, the buyer the lowest, and aggegate deal-making finds an efficient price and hence ‘gradient’ between supply and demand. To say the desire for cheapness is wrong is to say the market system is wrong. We can usually assume the arguer does not believe that, and generally we can assume we want the market system. That refutes the “wants cheap/free” argument.

In response the arguer might fall back on saying “its not market behaviour to break the law”: so their position is now that what is wrong is the law-breaking. That is a dull point to make — their new argument now has some correctness, but it is trivial and unilluminating.

Wally (profile) says:

I find the method of “just going without” slightly more painful. HBO gave us shows like (God save me from TD Wrath) “Sex and The City” and great movies like “A Night At The Roxbury” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. I loved HBO then when they actually released things as quick as possible to you on DVD or VHS. It’s sad to see them go down the money-grubbing drain that they are.
I thought ShowTime was bad when they pulled out of Netflix (showing my nephew “Shelly DuValle’s Fairy Tale Theater” was awesome and meant a lot of nostalgia to me….it’s even more nostalgic with commercials on the free version of Hulu though). But when I think from where HBO has come from and where it is today on its distorted view of distribution…it’s much worse.

Zos (profile) says:

the only business model i’m supporting these days is netflix. on demmand, on any platform, at any time, for a reasonable price. If it’s not on netflix, it gets pirated. draw what conclusions you like from that, but the fact that i’m ok with paying for a good VPN, and 2 netflix accounts to cover all the devices and people that might be watching at once, pretty well proves that i’m willing to pay, on my terms.

that makes it a distribution problem imo. well, maybe not entirely, i won’t pay for hulu because of who owns it. so distribution, plus not being worthless dicks who’s business we want to see die.

MrWilson says:

I love it when people who are making arguments against a position project their own nature onto the people who hold that position. It’s very revealing.

Just like the Christians who claim you can’t be moral without a belief in god are revealing that they are the ones who require such a belief to be moral and the people they’re opposed to can manage to be moral without god, Arment is revealing that if he pirated, he would do so because he “just wants it for free” or because he’s “cheap and/or impatient.” He may not understand why some people violate copyrights, but that doesn’t mean that other people would do so for the same reasons he would.

PRMan (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No. Christians are just saying what God says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” This is the morality of men.

Spiritual wisdom almost always runs counter to basic impulses. Helping others for free just to show them that you love everyone flies in the face of most people’s morality, which to a Christian is no morality at all. But it’s what led to the building of hospitals and educational institutions which we all agree have made great societies in the west.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Simplificate and add lightness

Comparisons and analogies are a method of explaining concepts by comparing what may be not understood with a concept that may be understood already by the audience. If others have encountered people who have such absurd assertions that reveal things about themselves rather than about others as they assert (and they don’t have to be Christians – that was just my personal experience), but hadn’t understood exactly what Arment was possibly doing in his assertion, it might be helpful. If we’re restricted from bringing up applicable comparison based on our experiences, conversation will get rather difficult and dull.

Anonymous Coward says:

The problem with HBO’s Distribution Model is non-existent. HBO’s goal is to rake in as much cash as possible. Like any other publicly owned company, the long view is meaningless. Unless they are in dire straights, the concept of taking it on the chin now to get paid greatly later is meaningless.

Also, “fixing” their distribution model won’t make them more money in the long run. Or, at least, isn’t guaranteed to make them more in the long run. It’s liable to make them LESS. If they offered their content as reasonable pricing, they’re getting a slice of the pie. Once. Per customer. As they’re set up now, they’re getting a slice of the pie continually. Who cares if the pie is bigger if you only get 1 slice, when a smaller pie gives you more slices, and hence, more pie for YOU.

slick8086 says:

“Don?t even pirate them. Don?t blog or tweet or face (?) about how good they are. Just don?t watch them.

That?s a real statement. And if enough people do it, that movement will effect change.”

The change he is talking about is HBO going out of business? Is he really arguing to boycott HBO? I say lets indulged him. HBO hired David Benioff and D. B. Weiss to make the Game of Thrones. Maybe Netflix or some other web based content distribution company will come along to meet the demand.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:


but you can?t argue that you?re justified in pirating it. Admit it: you?re ripping it off, it?s morally questionable at best (and illegal), but you don?t care.

Really? “Morally questionable”? Personally I find it “morally questionable” to bribe politicians to shift the goalposts every time you come across someone providing a perfectly reasonable service then scream about how illegal it all is and how they’re stealing from you…

As for “piracy”, I’ve yet to see a TV show taken by boarding on the high seas, so let’s stick to a single example of “copyright infringement” to examine the “morality” in it. This is a genuine question and if anyone thinks this hypothetical would actually be “immoral” (not “illegal”, we all know that it would fall under infringement) I’d be interested in why:
Let’s imagine you have a pay TV subscription that would get all the shows eventually, but due to windowed releases you don’t get them for anything between 2 months and a year after first release and that this is your only legitimate option for getting the show. Incidentally this scenario, if you like that sort of thing, would remove some of the “value” from the show since lots of shows now seem to have “live” social media interaction and the like related to the weekly episode. Is it “immoral” to watch the current episode assuming your subscription is still current when it is finally shown?

Lumping everything into “immoral piracy”, including all the widely stretched definitions that even paid for politicians balk at and pretending it’s all the same is way more offensive IMO. Pretending there’s no difference between the scenario above and selling ripped-off copies of Game of Thrones DVD around the world or anything in between is hardly what I’d call “moral”.

artp (profile) says:

I haven't watched TV in 20 years...

… and they still haven’t gotten my message, so I guess those people are right. Although I do see TVs on when I walk through rooms where others are watching TV. I have watched as much as 5-10 minutes of TV at a time, realized that it hasn’t gotten any better, and left.

Let’s compare this to another market. Let’s say I am a farmer who wants to sell food to people. People like my food so much that some of them start buying their own seeds and growing their own food. I lose sales. Are they pirates? No, they just like the extra advantages they get when they grow their own food. They get fresher food. It takes time to get food from my farm to their table. They get more flavorful food. I have to pick fruit before it is ripe, and let it ripen on the way. Otherwise it gets bruised and rotten and nobody wants to buy it. Also it makes a terrible impression on people about my food’s quality. They might even be making a “green” statement.

I can either improve my food, improve my processes, or adapt my business model to help people get what they want. I can start focusing on markets closer to my farm, provide special packaging for riper fruit, set up subscription models for “greener” operations, and so on.

Or I could create seed that doesn’t grow true, using hybrids and genetic engineering. Or I could create a Terminator gene to stop those pirates from growing their own food… Wait, that’s already happened, hasn’t it?

Never mind.

singleTrackVale says:

No distribution methods for HBO and other big players like them will change until Cable and Satellite providers change theirs. Cable and Satellite aren’t going to change until enough people are willing to cut the cord and force them to change their model to bring people back.
I finally cut the cord from satellite 4 months ago and won’t be going back. I’d pay for HBO separately if I could. Until then, their shows are free.

TroutFishingUSA says:

The naivety of this post and ALL the commenters is simply staggering. Can everybody really be this clueless?

Who owns HBO?

Time Warner.

What else does Time Warner own? Well, among many things they own the cable channels: TBS, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, [adult swim], The WB, WB Kids, CNN, and Castle Rock entertainment (which produces TV shows and licenses older ones for syndication on, you guessed it, cable TV). I’m sure there are more.

You all can’t seriously believe Time Warner would even consider the idea of gutting their other channels just so people don’t have to pay for cable to get HBO. Their entire business model with HBO is getting consumers to pay for cable, thus paying for their other shows.

So just in case you guys can’t grasp this: HBO being distributed as a stand-alone would have to cost not only enough to keep HBO profitable, but it would also have to make up for the massive losses TW’s other properties would suffer from cord-cutting; besides the fact that the cable companies themselves would have problems with HBO and their parent company. I doubt anyone here is going to be willing to shell out over $10 an episode for anything, if that would even cover the losses.

I’ve said it before: arm-chair quarterbacks. Try doing some actual research.

Milton Freewater says:

Re: Re:

“The naivety of this post and ALL the commenters is simply staggering. Can everybody really be this clueless? … Try doing some actual research.”

Your post agrees with the article, TroutFishing. It observes that Time Warner/HBO has no motivation to change and so do you. I’m not sure what your snippiness is about. But your additional comments were interesting.

Anonymous Coward says:

what's it worth to you?

If TV were removed from my life because piracy was somehow stopped completely, I would not miss my paid TV shows. And I sure as hell wouldn’t start paying for cable. Further, there is enough entertaining content that is freely distributed — youtube and funnyordie for example — that I could easily fill the void, and then some.

I pirate TV shows because it’s the only way I can pay the price that they’re worth to me: zero dollars.

Milton Freewater says:

On "just doing without"

I have no problem with just doing without.

However, “just doing without” and piracy are equally damaging to content providers. Both are the “equivalent of theft” in the harm they cause.

No friend of an industry would ever tell potential customers to not buy. Unless “just do withouters” are shills for The Promo Bay, they make no sense.

Dave says:

. . .or another approach

There are some compelling arguments about the reasons for piracy but no logic in what McArdle is saying here. There is even evidence that reducing the global delay in distribute boosts audience numbers and reduces the numbers of Pirates because they are getting what they want . . when they want it.

This approach was tried here recently in New Zealand, not primarily to reduce piracy (although that was a benefit) but because:

“”TV viewing is increasingly a community event, and online communities are global rather than local,” spokeswoman Rachel Lorimer told NBR.

“By screening international shows as close to their global premieres as practical, we ensure our audience is part of the global conversation around a big show and, of course, that keeps us relevant. Those are the main motivations.

“However, positive side effects may well be that our viewers save on their broadband data cap and are less likely to risk illegally downloading TV series. And a win for viewers is a win for us.”

You had of course already covered this here:

Roland says:

"worth pursuing"-dual meaning

“What piracy does do, regardless of ‘morality’ or ‘making a statement’ or anything else along those lines, is indicate demand. What they have to do is make the determination as to whether that audience is worth pursuing.”

If that audience isn’t worth pursuing as customers, then it shouldn’t be worth pursuing as criminals, and vice versa.

MahaliaShere (profile) says:

Accessing entertainment, knowledge, information in a way that is most convenient to the individual? I see nothing morally reprehensible about that, especially since the content producer chose to release it to the public. What I do find wrong, is dictating terms under which people are to enjoy the content.

Now, I know there are content mixers who read TD and like to chime in with the “stealing is stealing” meme. Please tell us how you would prefer one legitimate buyer over 10, 20… or 100 “unauthorized” downloads.

Jerald says:

The Solution

I don’t understand how no one at HBO has seen this solution, which is not only a solution but an inevitability. Stream your HBO channels on your website for a subscription fee. You don’t even have to offer an “on demand” type service where you can choose which episodes and shows to watch. Many people would glady shell out the cash to have HBO only on their PC and not on their TV. What I am talking about is very different from Netflix. Literally just streaming TV channels, but playing through your computer. This would result in an instant increase in profits because people would drop their cable subscriptions to your service and sign up with their website for the exact same price, giving HBO all of the cable companies profit. With all of the devices connected to a TV now, they are basically computers without web surfing. It will not increase piracy because it is so easy to pirate from a TV exactly what you owuld if you got it through a PC. When are people giong to learn every screen you have, cell phone, tv, pc, ipad, they are all the same and one method of distribution should not be favored over any other to maximize profit.

Dave (profile) says:

Re: There's one problem with this...

The cable companies and telcos that they’re bypassing are also the ISPs, and they could easily throttle the online traffic HBO generates in retaliation. Whether that’s legal or not won’t matter much to them when they can afford the lawyers.

There’s also the fact that HBO very likely makes a ton of money from people who forget to cancel their 3 free months of service and get billed for a month or two before finally canceling — not dissimilar to Blockbuster’s dirty “late fee” practices, which Netflix highlighted and used to bury Blockbuster. Netflix will have a harder time exploiting this weakness with HBO (and Showtime), though, because their primary business model doesn’t hold HBO and Showtime as competitors — not yet, anyway.

PaulT (profile) says:


“WIt really comes down to two options… Leave everything the same, and continue raking in money, or change and maybe rake in money.”

You left out option 3 – leave everything the same and watch as more agile competitors within both your own and other industries take your customers away, leading to huge losses in the long term.

These tactics might be workable for a year or 2, but at some point the lack of investment and adjustment to the new marketplace is going bite hard – especially since the current model doesn’t offer service to large numbers of potential customers in any way whatsoever.

Pete Austin says:

Society wasn't built by people who waited

If everyone had done without, or waited for things to be provided, or accepted that their current rulers owned everything, then we’d still be living in caves.

To take a more recent example, it’s a good thing that Rosa Parks got annoyed enough that she “pirated” a better seat on the bus.

Anonymous Coward says:

i am going to have to agree more with the two quotes. it is about economics.

if the companies providing their shows in ways that people want are doing better than HBO, HBO will change their stance. free market economy.

if there is still buzz about the show, even if it is generated through piracy, they will think that what they are doing is correct.

does this put game of thrones at risk? no more than HBO put game of thrones at risk by only having it shown on HBO.

piracy shows interest. if you want to send a message, don’t watch. i say do blog, but say “we aren’t talking about X because it is on HBO.”

more importantly, his part about impatience is dead on. the entertainment industry feeds off of our impatience to make more and more money.

i stopped downloading not because i thought it was wrong, but because i stopped being so concerned with seeing things now.

or to put a better example: i moved, lost cable, still watched all of lost. why? it was on However, i missed all of Battlestar Galactica. (watched it later, stupid angelstarbuck) it wasn’t worth it to download each week, not when getting lost was so damn easy.

i’ve never seen game of thrones. not sure when i will, but that isn’t my fault. that is HBO’s fault. they distribute it in a way that is unavailble to me. so instead, i watch adventure time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Society wasn't built by people who waited

way to insult an entire civil rights movement and prove you have little to knowledge of both it and American history that led up to that bus seat.

you are, in no shape or form, anywhere near Rosa Parks. the fact that you think you are is a testament to your intitlement.

there is a real issue here. a real concern about piracy and coorporations, and distrubition. there are honest discussions going on between customers about what to do about a system they do not like.

and then there is you.

your argument is this: we should be able to take since it wasn’t given the way we wanted. because that is how society was built. or something.

and then answer is no, you are wrong. you are comparing yourself to people who bettered their lives by standing up, or out. but you are not. you are just pirating a TV show.

the pirate is not the person you are talking about. if you want to build something better? if you want to change your world? you have to start differently. not by pirating some show from HBO. start a production company. write a book. take pictures. make a movie. make sure you release your content in such a way that it is availible. THAT is how you better things.

oh, and read a book about the Civil Rights movement.


Re: Society wasn't built by people who waited

This copyright nonsense directly interferes with documentary film makers and their ability to document the Civil Rights movement.

Game of Thrones is just a side show.

There are much more artistically significant issues at stake here.

Those tend to get forgotten because media moguls don’t really care about art. They are just out to make a quick buck.

btrussell (profile) says:


Doing without tells them their content isn’t worth it. They will have less money to lobby with. Then they will have to decide if they are content producers or lobbyists(not enough money to do both).
People produce content, not HBO. If those people want their content shown, they will find a way to get it out there. With or without HBO.

Doing without, while pirating, tells them their content is worth their inflated imaginary value. 7 pirated movies = $1.5 million, 24 pirated songs is worth almost $2 million.

Paying their inflated imaginary value gives them more money to keep the right people in their imaginary worlds where everything is perfect. How could it be otherwise? I mean look at all this money! It must be right!

Dave (profile) says:

Is anyone considering who owns HBO?

The entire cable TV system is predicated on making sure the beast gets paid. Want to watch Monday Night Football at home legally? You’ll have to pay for Fox News, TLC, and any number of other networks filled with programming you might find distasteful. Sorry. That’s the bargain.

Which brings up a very important point — HBO is owned by Time Warner, a bastion of old media thinking. Time Warner also owns Turner Broadcasting. Keeping HBO as a cable-subscription service allows Time Warner to earn more money for CNN, TNT, TBS, TruTV, Cartoon Network, and all its other cable properties — many of which, incidentally, would also be vehicles for distributing WB-owned films, allowing those films to generate more revenue. (Even if they never make a profit, according to the official ledgers.)

Pay TV is a huge racket, and the handful of multinational corporations at the top of the heap — Disney, Time Warner, News Corp., Comcast, Viacom — can and will keep this racket going for as long as they possibly can. Sure, we’d be glad to pay for HBO and ESPN and certain other networks separately, but offering those services online would likely kill the beast, and these beasts aren’t ready to die yet.

shane (profile) says:

Re: Is anyone considering who owns HBO?

I remember when we lost the first World War for democratic control of the airwaves in the 80’s. The model then was satellite. The issue was that they were beaming the signal everywhere and had no right to expect anyone to police that. So they invented scrambling, and when that didn’t work they had laws passed such that using descramblers was illegal.

The addition of the technology took care of the casual cling ons, and the legal harassment over descramblers finished off the more determined.

What could, and indeed should, have happened, was that the airwaves should not have been regulated at all. Let the scramblers and descramblers war over technology, let more and more people become aware of this technology, educate themselves, and create avenues of distribution of their own.

Copyright should not be something a creator can bargain away. It is not physical property, and should never be treated as if it were. Rather, creative people should be allowed to set the rate at which they wish to be paid, and then whoever is willing to distribute it can pay them that price. Let the best distributor win.

That’s assuming there’s any love left in your heart for creators at all, which sadly in my case is a firm negits. Still, that’s the one logical approach I can come up with, and of course it is every bit as objectionable to them as simply doing away with copyright, so to heck with them. A pox on them all.

MrWilson says:


You must not be very familiar with conservative Christian culture in the US.

“Helping others for free just to show them that you love everyone flies in the face of” a significant number of self-proclaimed Christians.

I agree that Jesus’ general philosophies are great and selfless and moral, but the practical execution by a highly visible number of Christians is significantly different.

I don’t need to believe in god, however, to help others. There is no prerequisite of belief for being moral. Otherwise you’d have to be accusing every non-Christian in the history of the world of being inherently immoral.

Anonymous Coward says:

Over here in the Netherlands, we have basically 2 groups of ISPs:

Telecom (ADSL)
Television (Cable)

There are cable companies that have started serving internet connections over their existing cable network, ever since 1996 I think, maybe even before then. Over time they improved throughput of the network, going from 16 KB/s up / 180 KB/s down in 1998 to 5 Mbps up and 100 Mbps down right now. Over the years they included Telephony to their services as well, and now you can get an all in one package with TV, Radio, Internet and Telephone.

There are Telecom companies that started with Telephone lines, to which they added Internet, and in the last few years also digital Television. Some even provide these services over optic fiber straight into your home: 50-100 Mbit even 500 Mbit connections are available to consumers now.

You can’t tell me that if they can make deals with these all-in-one providers to broadcast HBO over cable, they can’t include a special package for the internet.
(recently HBO has made deals with at least 18 ISPs here, cable and telecom, but one big cable company is missing so far). Let customers log on to a streaming server hosted by the provider, much like they host news groups already, and allow customers (who opt in to the extra paid subscription) to use those streaming servers.

That way Customers pay extra, like they would for a regular HBO expansion on their cable subscription. Cable/telecom companies keep their deals with HBO.
HBO distributes to the ISPs, ISPs take care of distribution over their own networks.

I’m sure they can come up with a good system that could serve both TV and Computer/Tablet streaming, and would allow for view on demand, pay per view, caching on tablets to view on the move, etc..

The only reason I can come up with why it hasn’t been done already is because it’s too much of a risk to invest with all the piracy going on? I’ll admit, I download because I’m “forced into it”, and I don’t like it one bit. I have to wait months sometimes even a year before content is available here. If it becomes available at all, because some stuff just never makes it over the puddle, even though I’m sure I’m not the only one interested in watching it.

The only people who wouldn’t be happy with it would be the dutch commercial networks, as they still buy TV series from foreign networks to show here, as the Dutch don’t make enough content to fill up all that time. But I wouldn’t mind a few Dutch networks dying off.. some of them just show reality crap and bought shows, they don’t really add anything of value anyways.

I’d prefer a decent dependable service from a legitimate company over torrents every day of the week.

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