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

You know nothing Jon Snow

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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