HBO GO Won’t Be Open to Non-Cable Subscribers Any Time Soon, Says Time Warner CEO. So Hold Onto Those Borrowed Passwords.
We Can't Have Nice Things
In late March HBO CEO Richard Plepler made my Game of Thrones-loving, non-cable having heart go pitter patter when he suggested HBO might, at some point, bundle their online streaming service HBO GO with Internet service, meaning that even if one doesn’t get cable one could still pay to get HBO shows legally online.
Now Time Warner’s CEO has stepped in to say “Not so fast!” It was a nice dream while it lasted.
Time Warner provides both cable and broadband services, so they could work with HBO to bundle streaming with the latter, not the former, explained Jeff Bewkes. But they won’t: “We could do it if we thought it was in our economic best interest, [but the potential market to be earned by doing so is] not sufficiently big enough now.”
Well… there ya go. It bugs me that, barring spending more money than I can afford per month, there’s no way for me to watch Game of Thrones as it airs (legally, anyway), but HBO is running a business, and they’re going to do what makes them the most money. If that includes sticking with their current arrangement with Time Warner and other cable companies, that’s the way it is.
One might be skeptical that HBO would lose money by giving the illegal-downloading masses the opportunity to pay to stream Game of Thrones; there are several million people who do, after all. But HBO and Cinemax have about 40 million cable subscribers, and HBO has to keep that number steady to maintain their relationships with distributors like Time Warner, who want to be able to charge as much for cable packages as they can. (OK, OK, Bewkes didn’t say it like that: Deadline paraphrased his explanation as “Distributors’ pricing and marketing decisions are even more important than the quality of the programming when it comes to influencing churn rates at the premium channels.”) I imagine that if HBO lets people buy streaming-only a lot of them will choose that and cancel their pricier cable plans, which neither Time Warner nor HBO want.
There’s a bit of silver lining for non-U.S.-based Game of Thrones fans, though. HBO GO is already available without a cable TV subscription in Scandinavia, and Bewkes says Time Warner is “always looking for opportunities to increase distribution… We’re always going to keep evaluating it depending on the country.”
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