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 @ 4:59pm

    Re: Re: HDMI verses everthing else

    My apologies.I should have been more specific.
    For most people the actual resolution received from the various content providers is all over the place...from 480p to 1080i, on basic or standard packages.
    I first came across this issue about five yrs ago when I had to duke it out with Dish network over their HD claims on their digital recievers.
    True they were digital but not HD.
    So many people think that because its digital that its automatically HD.
    Digital only refers to the method of transmission.
    So they sent me a new box that was capable of HD though only up to 1080i.Then they told me that I could recieve full HD if I paid extra for it even though my box was not capable of 1080p.We parted ways.Not long after that Dish started giving away their HD content.(1080i)
    So if you subscribe to an HD channel you MAY be getting 1080p.
    My point was and is that the only true HD content that you can count on is Blue-Ray via HDMI. And yes I suppose you can play a Blue-Ray Disc on some players over component connections...but why would you want too!
    As to Bandwith, the wire inside all the insulation and shielding is all pretty much the same in all types of the more common AV cables and more than capable of carrying full 1080p (plus full 7.1 audio with HDMI)...I have built many of my own cables in the past, so I know this to be the case.Current = Bandwith and current can be measured.The lower the resistance of the cable the more bandwith(current) you get. If this is really a big issue for you get yourself a voltmeter.
    No I'm not calling your TV a Liar...I would not want to insult it or hurt its feelings.
    All in all it really doesn't matter what the resolution is...the only thing that does matter is how it looks to you!

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