Good news, HBO-less Game of Thrones fans. HBO has heard your pleas to make HBO GO, their online streaming service, available to those who don’t have cable. And they have responded with a resounding “Maybe. Eventually.”
Hey, it’s better than “no.”
In a recent interview HBO CEO Richard Plepler acknowledged that, yeah, if he wants to maximize the number of people who watch Game of Thrones legally, then HBO probably needs to provide more options for them to do so.
To that end, Plepler explained that HBO is open to the idea of bundling HBO GO with broadband cable service in the same way HBO is currently bundled with cable TV service, made easier by the fact that many of the cable TV providers HBO partners with (like Time Warner, Verizon, and Comcast) offer Internet services as well. Though they “would have to make the math work,” he clarifies, it could break down to something like $50 a month for broadband, plus another $10 or $15 for HBO Go.
Said Plepler to TechCrunch:
The most important thing for us is creating content that is addictive. … And if we continue to create great content, then the means of distribution, while very important — people are going to find it. So what we want to do with HBO Go is give people as much optionality as we possibly can. …
Where do I think we’ll be in five years? I think there may be even more optionality, but with our partners. With our partners in the cable business, satellite business, and the telco business. Maybe even a broadband-only HBO delivery system. Who knows? We’ll see where that goes down the road.
This is very good news to a lot of Game of Thrones fans. In order to get access to HBO GO and (legally) watch Game of Thrones as it’s airing (as opposed to waiting months for the DVDs) one has to subscribe to cable and pay extra to get HBO, which adds up to around $100 a month. For many that’s an impractical restriction just to get one TV show, which has led to Game of Thrones being the most pirated show there is. You may disagree, but I firmly believe that a large number of people who pirate Game of Thrones would rather pay for it–it’s just that, if they don’t have cable, that’s a ridiculously expensive proposition. So of course they pirate.
HBO seems in no rush to make HBO GO available to the willing-to-pay masses, which makes sense. Peter Kafka at All Things D writes that the HBO Go/broadband bundling option probably won’t happen “for a long time, because right now the current system — where HBO (and Showtime) are only available to pay TV customers who also buy a lot of other TV channels — works well for the guys who own the shows, and the guys who own the pipes,” i.e. the cable companies.
But hey. At least HBO is aware that there’s a problem in their current model, and they seem interested in fixing it. That’s something.