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You know nothing Jon Snow

HBO’s CEO Doesn’t Give a Damn If You Watch Game of Thrones With a Borrowed HBO Go Password


Sure, every time you use someone else’s HBO GO password to log in and get your Game of Thrones fix you may technically breaking the law. But HBO CEO Richard Plepler isn’t going to be the one to sic the feds on you. It’s good. It’s allllll good.

Thus continues the long and winding saga of Game of Thrones vs piracy.

If you don’t have an expensive cable plan that includes access to HBO, you pretty much have two ways to watch new episodes of Game of Thrones and HBO’s other shows on the night they air: Illegal downloading and using a cable subscriber’s HBO Go password to get access to the network’s streaming service. You could wait to watch the episodes later, when they go up on iTunes, or much later, when the DVDs are released, but that’s simply not an option for a lot of fans who want to watch a show as it airs.

A ton of people go the illegal downloading route: Game of Thrones was the most-pirated show on TV in 2012 and 2013, and the season three finale broke piracy records. The HBO GO password route is also insanely popular. Both methods are illegal, but in an interview with BuzzFeed Plepler said he doesn’t care about the second one. Hell, he likes it!

“It’s not that we are unmindful of [password sharing], but it has no real effect on the business… I do my own little mother-in-law surveys, my own little focus groups, [and ask] ‘How many people are watching HBO GO?’ All the hands go up… ‘How many people are using their parents’ GO account?’ Every hand goes up. ‘How many of you are more likely, when you get your first apartment, to subscribe to HBO?’ All the hands go up. So to us it’s in many ways a terrific marketing vehicle for the next generation of viewers… It presents the brand to more and more people and gives them an opportunity hopefully to become addicted to it. And what we’re in the business of doing is building addicts, building video addicts. And the way we do that is exposing our product and our shows and our brand to more and more people.”

It makes sense, of course. Game of Thrones wouldn’t be the phenomenon it is today without all the social media buzz it got since its very first season, and in all likelihood it wouldn’t have gotten all that buzz were access to it restricted to people who could afford expensive cable packages. It’s nice to hear Plepler acknowledge that. But it still rankles a little that there seems to be no attempt to provide a legal way for non-cable subscribers to access HBO GO. It’s like he’s saying “I love that you love Game of Thrones enough to steal it. I love it so much that I’m not going to give you a way to buy it even if you want to.”

Which a lot of people would: A common refrain among those who participate in online piracy is that they’d be more than willing to cough up money to support their shows if doing so were easy and affordable. Like, for example, if HBO GO were made available on an a la carte basis for a monthly fee. Plepler himself has said that bundling an HBO GO package with Internet service might happen at some point in the future… but then Time Warner’s CEO came back with “Yeah, that doesn’t work for us.” As a premium cable channel HBO depends, not on commercials, but on deals with cable companies like Time Warner. Those cable companies make a ton of money off people buying TV packages, and would make less money if those customers jumped ship for an Internet-only option. Put simply, the money HBO would gain from individual HBO GO subscribers isn’t enough to offset the ruined relationships with cable companies. That’s just how the industry is set up right now.

So it’s back to using the HBO GO passwords of our parents/friends/uncle-of-a-former-roommate’s-ex-who-has-HBO. But at least Plepler understands. For now. I can’t help but think his “they’ll subscribe to HBO GO when they get their first apartments!” statement is a little starry-eyed. How many 20-somethings living in their first apartment do you know who can afford HBO? How many do you know who would pony up the hundred-plus bucks a month for it even if they could, considering it’s so easy to go the password-sharing route? How many of the current password sharers aren’t college students? The days of cord-cutting are upon you, HBO. Winter is coming.

(via: Nerd Approved)

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  • Anonymous

    I really don’t think it’s HBO saying “we don’t want to unbundle from cable” but more like “we can’t unbundle from cable at this time because they’re threatening to close us down entirely if we do.” So, there’s that.

  • T. Delli

    The likelihood that a young adult student would be able to afford HBO along with a cable package is infinitesimally small. However! It might be a good long-term plan, as these same people could subscribe when they become established a decade down the road. Which is more advantageous– having subscribers now or later– I really don’t know.

  • John W

    I’m wondering if I should share my password with my co workers…

  • Crystal N

    It seems to me that the CEO sees the benefit of garnering good will and long term customers later, which I think is not only fair, but a good idea. I’ve seen studies in the past that have determined humanity tends to be very loyal to brands that have treated them well and we tend to set up what brands we are loyal to as a child/young adult.

  • Anonymous

    About the only thing keeping people connected to cable at this point is HBO and ESPN. For almost everything else, you can get it online for a lot cheaper than cable, whenever you want, commercial free, without having to have a dvr. I can see why cable is so desperate to keep them, but at this point, cable needs them more than they need cable. Offer their streaming services directly to the viewers, and they’ll make way more than they do now.

    Thanks to the latest court decision to screw over the American people, about the only recourse cable companies will have to force viewers to not leave them (aside from offering better, more customizable and cost effective services) would be to throttle streaming services or force you to pay extra to them to get access to them.

  • Anonymous

    About the only thing keeping people connected to cable at this point is HBO and ESPN. For almost everything else, you can get it online for a lot cheaper than cable, whenever you want, commercial free, without having to have a dvr. I can see why cable is so desperate to keep them, but at this point, cable needs them more than they need cable. Offer their streaming services directly to the viewers, and they’ll make way more than they do now.

    Thanks to the latest court decision to screw over the American people, about the only recourse cable companies will have to force viewers to not leave them (aside from offering better, more customizable and cost effective services) would be to throttle streaming services or force you to pay extra to them to get access to them.

  • javakoala

    You could ask them to chip in a buck or two for the password.

  • javakoala

    I (and a number of my friends) would totally pay for online access to HBO, Starz, and some other premium channels if it was possible.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed. Everything I’ve heard over the years indicates that it is the cable providers like Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, etc who are raging against the changing landscape of digital entertainment. They refuse to work on a la carte options, they refuse to limit the number of “useless” channels thrown into cable packages (do we really need 10 MTVs?), and they continually pressure stations to fork over higher percentages of ad revenue and subscription fees.

    HBO is in a tough spot, whether people want to admit it or not. Either ditch cable altogether and see your revenue plummet or continue to play ball with the providers and have millions illegally download your content.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with the loyalty idea. However, it has also been determined that it is difficult to get people to pay for content/products that they have previously been used to not paying for. It’s hard for a young college kid to go from free HBO to having to pay a monthly cable bill just to get it.

  • Eve

    Hurray for addicts!

  • Marie

    I don’t think the kids in that study have any idea how much it would cost to have a HBO subscription. I know people who CAN afford it and still choose to download it illegally. I really doubt borrowing an HBO Gogo password will necessarily result in a subscription down the line.

    Also, my Dad is in his 60s and he borrows my cousin’s password, so it’s not even just young people.

  • heather_kaye

    “You could wait to watch the episodes later, when they go up on iTunes, or much later, when the DVDs are released, but that’s simply not an option for a lot of fans who want to watch a show as it airs.”

    I have this argument with people A LOT (because, as they tell me, I’m a prude and a rule-follower). I understand the urge to watch as it airs, really I do, but to feel that you have “no other option” feels overly dramatic for a tv-watching situation. Of course you have options – they just don’t please you. (All this said as someone who hasn’t seen any of the show because I don’t have a billion dollars for HBO and won’t watch the pirate sites. So maybe I’m wrong…but I really don’t think so.)

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    $100+ a MONTH?? Good lord who’s your provider. Mine’s a relatively new player on the internet and I only pay $26 a month for HBO and Cinemax

  • Christopher Batts

    What’s cable? (But yeah dude, totally driving UP that piracy by not releasing it on any other format. I’d buy it (or rent) from iTunes, Amazon, what have you and did buy the first season when it came out on disk… but while I love, love LOVE the books, the lag time and marketing killed mine and my wife’s interest in the television series ages back. Maybe someday, but it’s sure not on any list or schedule set for anytime soon;)