There are indications that HBO is finally starting to think about expanding HBO GO to users without a subscription to their cable service.
Even though HBO CEO Richard Plepler in a recent Reuters interview said, “Right now we have the right model,” which is corporate-speak for “we’re not letting go of the gravy train before we have to” there are signs HBO GO may soon become available for regular broadband customers.
It’s not hard to figure out what’s prompting the sudden change of heart as the number of Americans paying for cable TV packages has started to decline and is projected to just keep sliding. Consumers already paying for broadband internet are increasingly rebuffing expensive cable packages stuffed with channels they never watch.
In fairness to cable and satellite carriers most of the channel bundles come at the behest of content providers that insist your cable company carry all their crappy channels in exchange for the one or two everyone really wants. At the other end of the spectrum consumers want the ability to choose their cable channels a la carte. Content over broadband is shaking up the traditional relationships between cable and satellite providers and consumers. At this point in the march of technology there are no clear winners.
Facing the new reality HBO is now looking at ways to make content available to consumers without a premium cable subscription. The immediate goal is to have their cake and eat it, too; holding on to their premium subscribers while capturing some of the broadband market with a content bundled added to your internet connection. Instead of $40 internet bill it would be $55 with HBO GO included.
What remains to be seen is whether consumers will like the idea of having subscription costs added to their internet bill any better than they like them added to their cable bill. I’m going out on a limb and guess that they won’t like that at all.
The whole concept of a subscription to a specific content provider in the days of Netflix and Amazon is starting to sound a little old fashioned. I dropped my subscription to HBO after they canceled Deadwood without a decent ending and even a series like Game of Thrones hasn’t been able to lure me back. With the online entertainment options available today an HBO subscription just seems like a silly, almost laughable idea. So when the CEO makes it sound like his company is doing us a favor giving consumers what they want, it tends to justify the decision to drop them.
These days tone deaf comments from corporate CEOs are almost an everyday thing and no one is really surprised when it happens, but that doesn’t change the reality on the ground. HBO and Time Warner can either find a way to adapt to the new market reality or other companies that can will step in and poach their customers. As the dinosaurs learned the hard way, no one owes you a living.