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. icon
    James (profile), 21 Jan 2008 @ 1:23pm

    HBO Videos

    If the video is streamed from a TWC server on their internal backbone then internet usage fees would not apply. YOu would not receive content from the internet but from a server on the internal fiber backbone. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jan 2008 @ 1:26pm

    Oh My

    Something for everyone, Network Neutrality Toters, Conspiracy Theorists, Greedy Businessmen, Anti-Big Business, and possibly Anti-Trust Violation Lobbyists.

    I guess this is when the phrase 'field day' gets to be used.

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

  3. identicon
    Larissa L. Herda, 21 Jan 2008 @ 1:27pm

    And The customer knows this HOW..??

    Reminds me of the days of when cell phones used to charge for roaming. So how will TWC deal with this? will there be a little icon that pops up and says "ROAM" or something?

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

  4. identicon
    Iron Chef, 21 Jan 2008 @ 2:16pm


    I wonder how this will this work as a TimeWarner Customer when I go to iTunes or Netflix and rent movies on demand.

    I downloaded the MacWorld Keynote this weekend and it was over 800mb... Which, by the way looked great on my AppleTV. It must have been cut in High Definition... It actually looked better than last year's Keynote (Which, if I recall, was longer and a smaller file.)

    But that's beside the point, or is it?

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

  5. identicon
    Matt, 21 Jan 2008 @ 2:39pm

    Bandwidth Caps

    I recently got shutdown by Comcast for going over on there bandwidth limitations and it's got me wondering about a lot of these things. I use Orb for streaming audio/video to my phone. I can watch the news or catch up on my shows on the train into work. I also am a member of Hulu and use it to watch TV as my PC is connected to my TV and it works great. I use Pandora while working to discover new music.

    Now, the classic argument on the bandwidth cap is that that usage is all piracy (not saying it is). Also, when talking with Comcast, they explained that they basically run a report at the end of the month, sort by usage, and cut off the top certain percent. This plays into there story that there is no set cap, and that it is only addressed when others notice. However, as more and more of these services become available, and more and more people use them, the bandwidth caps for each individual user will drop.

    It's just a matter of time before more and more "average" everyday users will run into these problems because someone directs them to one site or another and there usage breaks this invisible limit. It's a pretty crappy situation, and I don't see it getting any better for, oh, how's 5 years sound. Hopefully we'll have some of this worked out by then.

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

  6. 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

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

  7. identicon
    Captain Nemo, 21 Jan 2008 @ 4:04pm

    Not all massive uploads and downloads are illegal... .ISO files are freakin' huge.

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

  8. identicon
    Alfred E. Neuman, 21 Jan 2008 @ 5:10pm

    BandWidth Unit of Measure

    When discussing or advertising Internet connection bandwidth, what are the units of measure ? I'm guessing that it would be bytes per month.

    I dont think that companies paying for web based advertising will be happy about their target audience using ad block in order to stay within the BW limit. Furthermore, they can no longer point the finger saying things like "you are stealing the internet" when you use such programs.

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

  9. identicon
    Mikes Right, 21 Jan 2008 @ 6:29pm

    HBO Joins the Movie Download Derby

    Your Right!
    The Time Warner unit is launching HBO on Broadband, allowing consumers to watch movies and its pay-TV shows on the Web for "free" _top+news+index_technology

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

  10. identicon
    Justin G, 22 Jan 2008 @ 4:55am

    Online Videos?

    Can these videos really be considered "online" when they are effectively held behind a walled garden? It doesn't seem like this is much more than an HTML interface on top of an on-demand offering. I would hardly call this a real internet strategy, but at least its their first step in that general direction.

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2008 @ 6:48am

    I would guess that Time Warner Cable and HBO didn't talk about this little deal. I remember when Verizon Wireless came up with their IMS standards, they didn't bother to talk to Verizon Broadband or business/consumer divisions either. They came up with something that wouldn't work across the company. I know Verizon Wireless is a jv, but still.

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

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