Cable-free access to HBO Go app is ostensibly under consideration

hbo go ss

Not sure about you, but cable operators sure bother the hell out of me by not letting me watch shows on iDevices unless I subscribe to their terrestrial television offering. Why do these companies presume everyone owns a TV? While the App Store hosts a bunch of apps from the likes of ABC, HBO or CBS, you must be a paying TV subscriber to stream shows (you already paid for) to your devices.

I like Time Warner-owned HBO’s shows and am subscribed to them through my cable TV provider and now we’re hearing that the company is considering reversing its stance and reportedly offer online subscriptions to cable-cutters in the not-so-distant future…

In an interview with Reuters issued yesterday, HBO CEO Richard Plepler said his company is teaming up with broadband Internet providers to stream shows to folks who are not subscribed to HBO through a cable TV service. This could be accomplished by tapping the free HBO Go app that could be “packaged with a monthly Internet service.”

He thinks they have nailed the math.

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.

When he talks about teaming up with Internet service providers, I suppose Plepler’s referring to the likes of Verizon FiOS, Comcast and Time Warner Cable who typically bundle pay TV with an Internet service.

As I mentioned above, the HBO Go app currently requires an HBO subscription through a cable TV provider.

HBO Go teaser

Launched in 2010, the HBO Go service has signed up about 6.5 million users across platforms versus 29 million for HBO’s main service.

I’m not sure bundling HBO subscription with a broadband Internet service is the right answer here – even if the combined price of the two roughly matches a regular cable-only HBO subscription.

Granted, it’s a nice additional option, but I’d rather see a pure online-only HBO subscription. Just let me subscribe to HBO through the iOS app and stream shows to my iPhone or iPad.

Of course, HBO – like other incumbents – has a lot to lose should it antagonize its traditional distribution partners by bypassing their infrastructure to deliver content directly to users’ devices.

On the other hand, the world is changing.

Case in point: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who upon returning from the annual Allen & Company retreat for Hollywood moguls wrote on his Facebook page: “Is there a site that streams the World Cup final online? (I don’t own a TV.)”

Mark is so-called generation C: the types of poeple who’ve been raised on social media, instant messaging and mobile devices. This group wants to consume content anywhere, anytime on any device they happen to be using at any given moment.

And with Silicon Valley giants such as Apple, Amazon, Google, Hulu and Netflix distributing content online, at a fee, die-hards stuck in the old ways will be forced to reduce their dependency on greedy cable operators.

Truth be told, it’s not like content owners aren’t experimenting with new revenue streams.

For example, Disney-owned ABC is said to be working on a mobile app which could render Hulu passé by providing a live Internet stream of national and local programming to subscribers, potentially very disruptive given the incumbent’s existing business models.

CBS 1.0 for iOS (teaser 001)

Another example: CBS has just released a brand new streaming iOS software, depicted above, which gives you access to its popular shows, either 24 hours after they air or eight days following their initial broadcast, free of charge.

But for the time being, powers that be apparently think streaming apps should be treated as an add-on, a nice option aimed at the existing pay TV subscribers.

Breaking Hollywood’s will, unfortunately, won’t be easy.

iTV mockup (Martin Hajek 002)

Apple, which according to the rumor-mill is working on a standalone TV set, has had little luck thus far persuading media companies to put their programming for sale on iTunes. Apple’s ultimate goal is to reportedly allow people to just cherry-pick television channels on iTunes, creating their own channel bundles of sorts.

Though Apple’s been talking with “a few large cable operators” in the U.S. concerning a new TV product, the company thus far has failed tricking content owners into realizing they would earn higher revenue per online subscriber versus the traditional cable/satellite business model.

And building an iTV without some premium programming just doesn’t make sense.


I just want to enjoy premium entertainment on any device, whenever I want, without restrictions, and am ready to pay for that privilege.

So Hollywood, is that too much to ask?

Or should I talk to my congressman?