HBO considering offering HBO Go without cable subscription

hbogoIt’s something that’s often discussed, occasionally teased, and most definitely wished for by fellow netizens, and now it seems as if it may just happen. Reports state that HBO is considering teaming with broadband Internet providers to offer a version of its HBO Go online streaming service to those who aren’t currently subscribers to the parent cable channel.

This time, the tease comes from HBO Chief Executive Richard Plepler, who spoke during an appearance at the Wednesday evening premiere for the third season of the channel’s hit show Game of Thrones. He told Reuters about the current incarnation of the streaming service, which makes HBO shows available to mobile devices and computers as long as users can provide proof that they are HBO subscribers. “Right now, we have the right model [but] we would have to make the math work,” Plepler said.

HBO’s historical concern is that offering an online subscription model that doesn’t require any form of cable subscription would undercut its cable subscription business, especially considering the online streaming subscription would likely cost less than cable subscription if HBO wanted to stay competitive with similar offerings. Additionally, with more Internet-enabled televisions and Apple TV-esque devices, those who want good quality shows on at home or on the go will easily be able to do that with online-only subscriptions.

Reuters posits a potential scenario in which HBO Go will be offered in a bundle, but instead of being part of a package with cable channels, it would be part of an Internet package. For example, a $50 monthly broadband Internet package could include an option to pay an additional $10 or $15 per month for access to HBO Go, just like cable subscribers pay extra fees to have premium channels.

Cable outlets like HBO have an arguably more difficult time adapting to a streaming media world, having been reluctant to offer content streaming services like Netflix in fear of devaluing its own content. Unlike “regular” television, HBO relies entirely on subscription and DVD/Blu-ray sales to pay for its content, having eschewed advertising as part of its basic business model. But for that, we also get hit original series like Boardwalk Empire, Entourage, Veep, Game of Thrones, and Girls.

Still, this method proven to have some obvious drawbacks – Not least of which has been a lack of legal (and, as far as HBO is concerned, profitable) online access to HBO programming for fans. The barred entry cuts down the potential for new fans, and restricts the growth of the company. Perhaps the new online model could be the solution HBO needs.


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