Shut up and take my money, HBO: Website pushes for standalone HBO streaming service

Take my money, HBO: Website pushes for standalone, streaming HBO service

Newly launched website wants to send HBO a clear message: We love your shows. We’re willing to pay to watch them upon release. Now please, for the love of Winterfell, give us a way to do that — without forcing a cable subscription down our throats.

The site allows visitors to tweet how much money they would be willing to spend on a standalone, streaming HBO service; like Netflix, but with Game of Thrones. An outpouring of tweets using the hashtag #takemymoneyhbo flows forth from the middle of the website’s homepage. A brief look at the tweets show a steady string of $10s and $15s and a surprising number or $20s. Quite a few $9s and $8s and $7s, too. There’s the stray $5 or $4 here and there. But an inadequately brief and mathematical measure of the proposed fees shows that a standalone HBO service would be worth more than all of Netflix to a majority of tech-savvy, Twitter-using fans, at the very least.

Website designer and creator of Take My Money, HBO! Jake Caputo says that he raked in “1,300+” visits in one hour after launch, 12,000 within two hours, and 21,000 after three hours. Despite this, Caputo says he didn’t specifically intend to launch a viral campaign.

“I was just hoping to get HBO’s attention, and I never thought it’d get this much traffic,” he tweeted. So far, HBO has not yet responded to fans’ wave of requests. Update: As expected, HBO said no, “for now.”

Of course, HBO does offer a streaming service of sorts through its HBO Go app. Unfortunately, access to this service requires an HBO subscription, which in turn requires a costly cable subscription — unless, as Caputo notes on the site, you simply use your friend’s login to get your dose of HBO show goodness, a practice HBO surely despises.

Caputo’s efforts come amidst news that the HBO series Game of Thrones is destined to become the most-pirated show of 2012 — as well as a growing resentment toward the current Hollywood distribution system and legislative efforts that recklessly seek to maintain its status quo.

While Caputo’s message-spreading technique is new, the idea of Take My Money, HBO! is not. In March, cartoonist and computer programmer Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, summed up the widely-echoed problems with HBO’s current business model perfectly in one of his Web-only comic strips. This was followed by a forceful piece by Forbes contributor Erik Kain, who argued that “HBO only has itself to blame” for getting reamed by online piracy.

“…HBO is missing out on a huge potential audience by limiting themselves to cable TV subscribers,” writes Kain. “I don’t blame the company for keeping their shows off of Hulu or Netflix, but offering HBO GO as a stand-alone service could put a serious dent in these piracy numbers, and bring in a lot more legitimate viewers to shows like Game of Thrones.”

Unfortunately for everyone, HBO co-president Eric Kessler essentially shot down all possibility of a standalone HBO service during an interview with Will Richmond of Video Nuze last December. Kessler indicated that HBO has not been hurt by piracy, has no plans to launch a standalone streaming service. He asserts that the premium channel’s exclusivity remains one of its most vital assets.

Watch the whole interview below. (Warning: It’s 40 minutes long — but well worth your time. For a shorter, more candid explanation, see here.)

For those of us on the consumer side of this debate, a fundamental switch to  a la carte TV seems inevitable — it’s what we want; give it to us. At this point, however, Caputo remains humble about the giant elephant he just pointed out in HBO’s living room. When we asked whether he thought there was a chance in hell that HBO would launch the service so many wish for, Caputo had a simple answer: “Probably not, but I hope so!”

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