Copyright

by Timothy Geigner


Filed Under:
bars, copyright, game of thrones, viewing party

Companies:
hbo



HBO Shuts Down Bar's Game Of Thrones Viewing Party

from the no-fun-allowed dept

Winter is coming. Again. Or, it has come back already, or still, or whatever. Look, I don't know, I just love Game of Thrones. Lots of other people like it too, which means that lots of people watch on HBO...and a lot of others watch it through illegitimate sources, making it the "most pirated" of shows. Part of the reason it's so pirated is that access has traditionally been restricted to those with HBO cable subscriptions. Still, HBO being pissed over some fans pirating the show is understandable.

Less understandable is HBO going after non-pirate fans, such as a GoT viewing party at a local Brooklyn watering hole.

HBO recently sent a cease and desist letter to the owners of Videology bar in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, asking them to stop their Game of Thrones weekly viewing parties.

"As a pay subscription service, HBO should not be made available in public establishments," a spokesperson for the network told the Daily News "When it does happen, it is of particular concern when there is an attempt to profit off the programming. We have taken such actions for well over a decade."
Yes, HBO, you have indeed taken these kinds of actions for well over a decade. But things have changed over that decade that you might want to pay attention to. Cable subscriptions are in the decline, for instance, meaning that content producers are going to have to find other avenues to keep consumption at the same levels. Also, and you probably noticed this...Game of Thrones is insanely popular and profitable, even with all of the actual piracy going on. Targeting a bar that holds a party for fans of the show isn't just useless, it's plainly damaging to the brand, the fanship, and the spread of the fanbase. I mean, is anyone really suggesting that the patrons who attended this viewing party were all planning on immediately cancelling their HBO subscriptions, and instead planning to watch their beloved show at the bar every week? Or is it more likely that these patrons all probably are HBO customers who just want to get in a group once in a while and collectively watch their show? And how many new fans will miss on the opportunity to jump into the GoT fervor because this event isn't going to take place?

The bar in question seems to get what HBO doesn't, of course.
"Seeing that many other bars in the neighborhood and around the city were showing it, we made the assumption that HBO believed, as we do, that public screenings were in the best interest of both HBO and the fans, since GOT is enjoyed on a deeper level as a communal event," co-owner Wendy Chamberlain told the NYDN. "But in the end, it's not up to us."
And so HBO misses another opportunity to grow the show's fanbase and brand, if only it could just behave in a human and awesome way for once.


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  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 22 Apr 2015 @ 4:42am

    "As a pay subscription service, HBO should not be made available in public establishments,"

    Well, perhaps there's the first mistake. Unless I'm very much mistaken, such venues tend to pay for special licences for sports and other types of entertainment so that they can hold similar kinds of events. I'm sure the venue would be happy to pay a reasonable mount of money to hold a successful weekly event based around the content. Are HBO saying that they literally don't give this as an option, and demand that they be paid nothing instead?

    "We have taken such actions for well over a decade."

    So, you've been shutting down parties for fans of your content for a decade without thinking you might make money by offering a public licence? Would this be the same decade where you refused to let people access your content without paying silly amounts of money on a cable subscription they didn't want? Then acted surprised when people bypassed the blocks? Probably.

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

    • icon
      jedipunk (profile), 22 Apr 2015 @ 5:11am

      Re:

      They did the same thing during when bars where having Sopranos night.

      Why should the bars be permitted GoT night and not the local theaters?

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 22 Apr 2015 @ 5:35am

        Re: Re:

        Who's saying theatres shouldn't be allowed as well, so long as they pay whatever licence is necessary and have the necessary equipment installed to receive it?

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

        • icon
          jedipunk (profile), 22 Apr 2015 @ 5:49am

          Re: Re: Re:

          That's my point. The bar is not paying any licensing to publicly show GoT.

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

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 22 Apr 2015 @ 6:05am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            ...and my point is that rather than shutting parties down repeatedly for over a decade, they should be offering a licence for them to purchase and do this with permission, in which case both venues could offer it if they wished.

            Is that so hard to understand?

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

            • icon
              jedipunk (profile), 22 Apr 2015 @ 6:34am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              No, I understand and I agree it would be beneficial to the bar.

              Obviously, the current arrangement is beneficial to HBO or they wouldn't continue doing it.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 7:16am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                that has never stopped a corporation before from hurting perceived profitability, when in reality they lose more than they gain

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 7:30am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                No, it's not obvious, that's the point of the article. Certainly some people at HBO think it's beneficial, but to think that they either have skulls as thick as tank armor, or, more likely, their sense of entitlement has rendered them incapable of logical thinking.

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

                • icon
                  Uriel-238 (profile), 24 Apr 2015 @ 6:04pm

                  Correction: Some lawyers that HBO retains think it's beneficial to THEM.

                  Which I'm sure it is, given they're paid by the document and by the minute.

                  We don't know if anyone in HBO looks at this situation and thinks yeah, let's shut down GoT night at local bars. Let's make that company policy.

                  And what's scary is that corporations run on automatic pilot, which is how we get internet activation DRM, QTEs in video games and the Battleship movie.

                  (Those are the first examples that come to mind.)

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

              • icon
                PaulT (profile), 22 Apr 2015 @ 7:42am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                "No, I understand and I agree it would be beneficial to the bar."

                ...and to HBO in a number of different ways. This is a situation where both parties can benefit if the terms are amicable. Instead, they just pissed off a bunch of their own customers, both those who would have attended the screening and those reading articles on this shutdown.

                "Obviously, the current arrangement is beneficial to HBO or they wouldn't continue doing it."

                Correction - they *think* the current arrangement is beneficial, or at least they believe it benefits them more to pretend it does than to admit it doesn't.

                They're definitely protecting a business model that's getting frayed at the edges, and they're locked in to some degree with existing cable network agreements and the like. There will be a side that we're not seeing here, but on the face of it, there were several choices, and this is the least positive one for both parties.

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 7:58am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  The calculation is probably that if they allow their most popular programs shown in Pubs, even more people will cut the cord because they can go down the bar to watch it.

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

                  • icon
                    PaulT (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 12:53am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    Which shouldn't matter to HBO if they're recouping the lost subscription fees through licencing fees to the venue. If a weekly screening of one show is enough to get them to cancel their entire cable subscription, they're hardly going to be a high value customer who would have continued subscribing after the show run anyway.

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

                  • icon
                    Uriel-238 (profile), 24 Apr 2015 @ 6:12pm

                    Whereas my calculation is that the occasional bar-party would serve as promotional.

                    Provided that bar-parties are not every week for every episode (a likely case) the regulars will still have to obtain the remaining portions of the series themselves.

                    So yeah, it's a way to build up cultural hype and draw in new viewers.

                    Because people like to share their lives and culture with each other.

                    If you stop them from sharing your culture, you stop your culture from becoming culture.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 10:20am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              You aren't supposed to be able to get hbo on a business account. HBO does provide licenses for places like hotels, but I don't think they sell public viewing licenses like a UFC match will.
              But just FYI those types of licenses are priced based on occupancy and can cost thousands of dollars per event.

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

        • icon
          jedipunk (profile), 22 Apr 2015 @ 5:51am

          Re: Re: Re:

          As well, HBO probably has less of a problem with them offering a public viewing of GoT than they have with them advertising that they have a GoT night.

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

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 22 Apr 2015 @ 6:09am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Probably, but this is still a silly stance. You can offer something, but the minute you let people know about, it's not allowed? Again, why not work with them and offer a way to get paid - any money lost by the advertised offering is almost certainly going to be less than the lawyer's fees involved in getting lawyers to find and shut down the event.

            Few people are going to cancel their subscription and/or stop buying merchandise because they saw the show at a bar. But, a public showing might not only convert new fans, but also attract those people who are currently pirating the show because they don't want the huge overhead of a cable subscription to begin with.

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

  • identicon
    HMTKSteve, 22 Apr 2015 @ 5:15am

    Business Class

    For a brief while I had business class cable modem based internet at my house. While I was able to get cable TV as well there were restrictions on what packages were available because a business is not a residential account.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 5:26am

    it isn't just HBO now, is it. any and every section of the entertainment industry is so set in the belief that if whatever they produce or show or both isn't kept so close to them, they will lose control (and lose financially, but that is supposedly not as important! yeah, right!) and no one will be interested in it any more. i find it quite amazing that any company can actually condemn customers for doing what the company wants, in this case, watching their program! they know the answer just as the customers do, but to implement the answer would mean relinquishing some of that control and that just cannot be allowed to happen, let alone encouraged!

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

  • identicon
    Michael, 22 Apr 2015 @ 5:30am

    On one hand, it is pretty stupid to prevent people from gathering together to watch something that they enjoy. The next time some technology is going to "kill the movie industry" (or popcorn farmers or something), perhaps it should be noted that people like to get together want watch shows that are available at home.

    On the other hand, do we really want drunk New Yorkers reenacting scenes from this show at 3AM?

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

  • identicon
    AJ, 22 Apr 2015 @ 6:14am

    Just like Prohibition, the drug war... etc. If there is a demand, people will find a way. These guys want their GOT parties, they will have them. Instead of getting the free advertising and perhaps creating a licensing fee at the local pubs, the people will move them underground and do it themselves.. and another mole gets whacked...

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 6:53am

      Re:

      All the bar has to do is create a sign up sheet for those who are interested in attending and then make the viewings a private party that is closed to the rest of the public. That way it is no longer a public performance. Hell, the sign up sheet could even be online.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 8:20am

        Re: Re:

        I believe those license agreement considers over 5 people public.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 8:31am

          Re: Re: Re:

          So a family of 6 requires a special license?

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 9:50am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I looked it up. Home Use Only is allowed for familiy and friends in the home. Then there is also Face to face teaching which is also allowed with copyrighted material as long as it is used in schools for teaching a lesson. Everything else is public venue and you need get a public license agreement.

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

      • identicon
        Luke, 22 Apr 2015 @ 9:40am

        Viewing party

        I think if you had an on-line sign up sheet, they would find some way to nail you for it ("How can it be a private event if you're allowing people to sign up for it?" - HBO lawyers). However, if you did something like print up an invitation for the next viewing party, and handed that out at the end of the prior week, and created the sign up sheet that was an "RSVP", I think you would be on solid legal ground. Just have everyone that was invited show the invite when they show up.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 9:55am

          Re: Viewing party

          The point was to make it a process such that it qualifies as a private party instead of a public performance. That process would consist of requiring an invitation in order to gain entry. How it is determined who is invited or not has no bearing on whether it is private or not as long as they don't let anyone in without an invitation, even if the person gets the invite by requesting it on their smart phone 5 minutes before attempting to enter. They still were invited before they attended.

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

          • identicon
            Luke, 22 Apr 2015 @ 10:09am

            Re: Re: Viewing party

            I just found this...well there goes my idea.

            Taverns, restaurants, private clubs, prisons, lodges, factories, summer camps, public libraries, daycare facilities, parks and recreation departments, churches and non-classroom use at schools and universities are all examples of situations where a public performance license must be obtained. This legal requirement applies regardless of whether an admission fee is charged, whether the institution or organization is commercial or non-profit, or whether a federal or state agency is involved.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 10:58am

              Re: Re: Re: Viewing party

              I think that only applies if the audience is the public. If the owner of the establishment invites some friends over when the business after hours when it is closed to the public, that wouldn't apply. If the establishment charges for admission, that doesn't make it private. Invitation only, however does.

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

              • icon
                John Fenderson (profile), 22 Apr 2015 @ 11:09am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Viewing party

                "Invitation only, however does."

                I'm not so sure that this is true as a blanket statement. For example, if you hold an invitation-only event and those invitations go to your 100 best customers, I'll bet that it would be considered a public performance.

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 12:42pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Viewing party

                  This sort of thing has been done for quite some time in places where the public sale of alcohol by the drink has been prohibited by local ordinances. In some areas they don't allow public bars but private clubs where you have to either be a member or a guest of a member to get in and be served.

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

            • icon
              BernardoVerda (profile), 22 Apr 2015 @ 7:21pm

              Re: Re: Re: Viewing party

              Found where?

              Is that a legal definition? The explanation provided by HBO? or by the MPAA?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 11:08am

        Re: Re:

        That will work until cable boxes start detecting number of viewers and shut off when the number is too high. A patent is already pending for this technology.

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

  • identicon
    HMTKSteve, 22 Apr 2015 @ 6:15am

    Bigger question

    The bigger question is how a business was able to add HBO to their cable TV service. HBO is only available to residential subscribers NOT business accounts. Sounds like someone is either using a residential account in a business setting OR recording the show and replaying it at the bar, which would count as a public performance.

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

  • icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 22 Apr 2015 @ 6:15am

    over a decade

    "As a pay subscription service, HBO should not be made available in public establishments," a spokesperson for the network told the Daily News "When it does happen, it is of particular concern when there is an attempt to profit off the programming. We have taken such actions for well over a decade."

    Quite a bit over a decade - I recall a bar I worked at around advertised we were showing some Leon Spinx fight, so I'm guessing around 1980. Packed bar, everyone watching the "pre-show", and then...

    ..NOT AVAILABLE ON COMMERCIAL ACCOUNTS...

    Lots of REALLY annoyed drunks out that evening...

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

  • icon
    John William Nelson (profile), 22 Apr 2015 @ 6:51am

    What is the Bar's TV license?

    IF the bar has a commercial, public viewing cable or satellite account, AND that account includes HBO, I am not sure how HBO can ban this.

    I mean, you pay extra as a bar or commercial establishment to get the public viewing license rights for the channels.

    Sounds like overreach to me.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 22 Apr 2015 @ 7:44am

      Re: What is the Bar's TV license?

      "I am not sure how HBO can ban this"

      Presumably, HBO's service will have its own licences that may or may not exclude public performances. If they don't offer that option, it will be a licence violation even if it's fine with other channels.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 7:02am

    The way to fight this is with shame...

    What the bar should do is make the viewings a very public charity event for some cause that is very emotional that everyone would support such that shutting it down becomes a gigantic PR nightmare.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 7:13am

      Re: The way to fight this is with shame...

      Since when did the content industry worry about PR?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 7:42am

        Re: Re: The way to fight this is with shame...

        Oh they care about PR. It all depends on how much money it costs them. If it doesn't cost them much then they don't care. That's why the charity has to be something like support for abused children that any attempt to suppress would be met with an outrage from the public at large so swift, intense, and massive that they couldn't possibly stand the heat.

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

  • icon
    David (profile), 22 Apr 2015 @ 7:47am

    Bronx vs Brooklyn

    Less understandable is HBO going after non-pirate fans, such as a GoT viewing party at a local Bronx watering hole.
    HBO recently sent a cease and desist letter to the owners of Videology bar in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, asking them to stop their Game of Thrones weekly viewing parties.



    Not that it matters from a story point of view, but Williamsburg is in Brooklyn, not the Bronx. As it says in the quoted section of the article...

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

  • identicon
    David, 22 Apr 2015 @ 7:50am

    Dear HBO

    Due to ever increasing cable costs, I've realized that watching "Premium" content isn't really necessary. As a side effect of this, I have never seen an episode of Game of Thrones. While I do enjoy TV, it's generally watching what I want, when I want. I've really enjoyed House of Cards, and now Daredevil. HBO GO is a start, but still doesn't provide the same convenience as a service like Amazon or Netflix, and requires a substantial higher investment in a lot of other services (like "Basic" cable + HBO + cable boxes + HD subscription + DVR subscription + taxes) to accomplish the same thing. Times have changed. HBO hasn't, at least enough.

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

  • identicon
    J.J. Kelley, 22 Apr 2015 @ 9:45am

    Videology isn't in the Bronx

    Check your linked source again, you reported: "GoT viewing party at a local Bronx watering hole." You then linked to an article referencing a bar in Brooklyn.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 9:53am

    Seems like free marketing.... cus in no way will anyone walk away saying hey I was in a bar and there was a show that was so popular people met up to view it together and I saw parts of it... Makes me want to get HBO to see more

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 10:39am

    I used to work at Appleebee's and we could have tv's on showing cable programming but we were told we weren't allow the audio or sound to be on as that would lead to us getting fined/sued in trouble.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 10:58am

    So the bar pays for HBO and gets a cease and desist stating they can't watch it. Sounds like an easy way to get out of your cable contract early and cut the cord to me.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 10:59am

    I wish Fox News would send a cease and desist to McDonalds so I don't have to see it every time I want a burger.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 12:03pm

    is anyone really suggesting that the patrons who attended this viewing party were all planning on immediately cancelling their HBO subscriptions, and instead planning to watch their beloved show at the bar every week? Or is it more likely that these patrons all probably are HBO customers
    Why would you assume they were subscribers? I'm not from the US, but I thought it was a channel one had to specifically request and pay extra for. Wouldn't it be reasonable to assume some of them never had HBO in the first place?

    Of course, given that, it might be a good idea to let them see what they're missing... but television companies just seem to be stupid. There's only one time a year when I watch non-downloaded television—when I stay with my family over the Christmas break—and it's like they're going out of their way to advertise their crappiness. It's all reruns, often in "marathon" format (and pre-empting normal programming), with incessant advertising. Any thoughts of ever getting cable vanish after a day or two of that...

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

  • identicon
    Paddy's, 22 Apr 2015 @ 12:45pm

    but we already pay

    Our bar pays handsomely for cable, like five or six times what a "citizen" would pay.

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

  • icon
    CaseyKno (profile), 22 Apr 2015 @ 2:13pm

    Seems strange that they would go after a bar over a show when bars have made a business for years showing pay per view,showtime,and HBO fights.

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

  • identicon
    Janey, 27 Apr 2015 @ 8:43pm

    well..

    at least they sent them a polite letter instead of doing what the UFC zombies do - lawsuits.

    Really, I can't fault HBO for doing this. Have friends over to your house to watch the show? Sure. no problem. Have a bar and using it to get customers in? Ehh....

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


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