HBO Admits That Perhaps Cable-Free Access Might Possibly Make Sense One Day, Maybe
from the with-great-reservation dept
Slowly but surely, HBO seems to be softening on that whole "internet" thing that everyone keeps asking them to look into. We recently noted that they've acknowledged the need to make shows like Game of Thrones more widely available online for the international market, and now Reuters reports rumblings of corollary realization: offering HBO Go as a standalone service without a cable package might be a good idea. Or at least it's crossed their minds.
"Right now we have the right model," [HBO Chief Executive Richard] Plepler told Reuters on Wednesday evening at the Season 3 premiere of HBO's hit TV show "Game of Thrones." "Maybe HBO GO, with our broadband partners, could evolve."
Plepler said late Wednesday that HBO GO could be packaged with a monthly Internet service, in partnership with broadband providers, reducing the cost.
Customers could pay $50 a month for their broadband Internet and an extra $10 or $15 for HBO to be packaged in with that service, for a total of $60 or $65 per month, Plepler explained.
"We would have to make the math work," he added.
The folks at HBO seem intent on letting the world know that they know these demands exist—they're not stupid or blind, they just happen to be making a lot of money with things the way they are, thank you very much. But while there's often a lot of sense to the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it mentality, the record and film industries serve as illustrative examples of why it may not be a great approach for content companies faced with new technologies. It's easier to experiment when you've got money, and HBO could be using these successful times to start piloting and ultimately launching an online-only service that is superior to the competition, both legitimate and otherwise. If they wait until the growing cable-cutter movement actually necessitates the shift, they could end up like those other industries—dragging their heels until someone else steps in to do the hard work (iTunes, Netflix), or offering ersatz late-to-the-game products of their own (Ultraviolet, Hulu).
Still, it's good to know that it's occurred to them. As for the idea of bundling it with ISP subscriptions, while it makes less sense than offering something to everyone who wants it, it's actually not a bad first step for a company that relies so heavily on partnerships with cable providers (who also happen to be ISPs). However, depending on how such a plan was implemented, it could raise a lot of issues around net neutrality, and could lead to a bundling problem that's just as bad as exists now with cable—especially if it's successful at first, and the providers try to pile on with all kinds of other content subscriptions. Since HBO is obviously going to take its sweet time with any online-only strategy, hopefully it at least realizes that solving the cord-cutting problem is a better goal than renewing and postponing it.