HBO Decides It Still Isn't Difficult Enough To Watch HBO Shows

from the drm-doesn't-work dept

We've recently discussed the fact that HBO severely limits the availability of its shows to non-subscribers, and I've speculated that the success of HBO-style programming owes a lot to piracy as a way around those restrictions. But HBO is terrified of piracy—so terrified, in fact, that they're willing to toss roadblocks in the path of their subscribing customers as well. Ars Technica saw some complaints on a satellite forum, and discovered that DirecTV users with older DVRs and TVs are suddenly unable to watch HBO shows, thanks to newly-activated encryption:

"No problem until today trying to watch HBO," a standard definition TV owner with an HR 20 DVR noted on Saturday. "Get message that the program is content protected. I can view every other channel except HBO. This wasn't the case last week. Something new?"

Ditto declared another poster a few hours later: "Noticed something strange this week also regarding HBO. Although my Sony is connected via HDMI I get the message that my 'set is not compatible with..... ' displayed too briefly to read in its entirety. It is displayed when changing between HBO channels. Same TV, same HR20 for nearly six years, never a problem prior to this."

...

"As of today, I can no longer watch HBO over HDMI to my television," another consumer disclosed. "I get an error message that says 'HDMI connection not permitted. Press SELECT for more information.' (And pressing Select does nothing.)."

Turns out the problem is HDCP encryption, a newer part of the HDMI standard that premium channels are requiring pay TV operators to implement. Ostensibly this is to stop people from obtaining high-definition copies of movies and TV shows—but of course, HDCP was cracked a while ago and this will do little or nothing to stop the dedicated (and highly organized) groups that make such copies available. Meanwhile, it forces a bunch of paying customers who were happily and habitually enjoying the content to suddenly go out and get expensive new equipment (or, quite reasonably, turn to piracy to replace what was taken from them even though they still pay for it). DirecTV suggests a workaround—switching to component video instead of HDMI—but as Ars points out, this is a pretty weak response: component video is much lower quality, and some content still won't work, because first-run movies employ selectable output control (another silly DRM restriction) to prevent analog output.

It's truly amazing that companies like HBO still pursue such strategies. There is not, and never has been, a form of DRM that effectively prevents piracy—but every single form of DRM reduces the value of the product to legitimate subscribers. It's pretty bizarre to continually punish the only people who aren't engaged in the behavior you want to stamp out.

Filed Under: drm, encryption, hdcp, hdmi, piracy
Companies: directv, hbo


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2012 @ 11:55am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Well, here's the problem with the advertising: they're not controlling the advertising anymore. Now if the product is good (say, like Game of Thrones), then more people seeing it is going to lead to positive advertising, word of mouth, and more people being exposed to the product. If the product is not so good (say, like John Carter), then the advertising is going to be negative, and less people will be "tricked" into giving it a shot, and it's going to spiral downwards MUCH faster, meaning they bring in less money on crappy products.

    So really, the victims here are people who work on crappy products. For years, crappy products could still be counted on bringing in a certain amount, and that is dropping off the cliff.

    Now while that is a good thing in one sense as it seems like it would push for better products to be put out, in reality what will most likely happen is less chances are taken on major studio movies/TV shows/etc. I think we've seen that in action with all the remakes, unnecessary sequels, and unoriginal ideas being thrown out there: it's a sign of an industry (well, industries) scared and clamoring for anything they think they can do for profits, since while the money being brought in is still astronomical, it's not as much as they want, so in their minds, it's failing.

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