Funny That HBO Is Putting Shows Online, Just As Parent Time Warner Starts Charging Extra For Bandwidth

from the coincidence? dept

The NY Times is covering the news that HBO has finally decided it needs a real internet strategy, and will start offering its content online, free of (additional) charge to existing subscribers. The idea of putting the content online makes a lot of sense, and it sounds like it's offering features that many HBO subscribers would find useful, from access to archived materials to live streams. However, there is something a little odd about all this, as noted by the folks at The Hollywood Reporter. HBO is owned by Time Warner. Time Warner is the same company that is now starting to experiment with overage fees, sometimes based on very low usage -- which would clearly preclude watching very much online video.

It is true that both of these programs are merely tests -- and they're tests in totally different markets right now. However, the HBO online video will only be available to Time Warner customers. The Hollywood Reporter story suggests that it's a case of two parts of a business not communicating with one another -- but I'm sure some more conspiracy-minded thinkers will naturally assume it's really Time Warner's attempt to squeeze more money out of people. Sure, it will say the HBO streams are "free," but just wait until you get that broadband bill... Of course, there is also another possibility. The Hollywood Reporter story mentions the possibility that Time Warner would create a special "exception" to the bandwidth rule if that bandwidth was for watching Time Warner-only videos. That, of course, is exactly the sort of thing that will be sure to get network neutrality advocates up in arms, though it's a subtle shift from traditional network neutrality claims. This time it won't be about "better quality," but about which content counts towards a bandwidth cap.

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  1. identicon
    Russ Stebbins, 21 Jan 2008 @ 3:51pm

    Animal Farm

    My concern around net neutrality has always been that some content (pipe owner) would be more equal than others. This is a variation on that concern.

    Whether it be piggy backing on the investment of other content (premium speeds) or treating access/use differently, the ability of the pipe owner to treat its content differently (more advantageously) is going to be an ongoing threat against a neutral internet

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