Does HBO's Web-Only Plan Suck for True Blood and Game of Thrones Fans?
Despite an ongoing campaign from fans who are literally begging HBO to take their money, the popular pay-TV network is not yet ready to launch a standalone Web-only video service.
Realistically, that may never change. While hundreds (if not thousands) of individuals have pledged their support for an online, cable-free version of HBO, the New York Times reported last week that the company will stick to the current cable subscription format. This means that you have to sign up for Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), Time-Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH), DirecTV (NYSE: DTV), or some other pay-TV service -- and pay an additional monthly fee for HBO -- to gain access to all the network has to offer.
When HBO launched an online portal two years ago, fans of the network's most popular shows began to dream of a world in which they could cut the cord and leave cable behind. This hope grew every time HBO brought its online app, HBO Go, to new devices. From iPhones and iPads to Kindle Fires and Xbox 360s, HBO Go is popping up everywhere. This led to the creation of a new campaign called Take My Money, HBO!, which is essentially a hub for users to unofficially pledge how much money they'd be willing to pay the network for a Web-only iteration. Some True Blood and Game of Thrones devotees are going overboard, pledging upwards of $20 per month.
@DavidBivens vowed to pay $25 a month, tweeting, "I would pay $25 a month for a standalone @HBOGO subscription @HBO http://takemymoneyhbo.com #takemymoneyHBO PLEASE. At least put it on iTunes." While @sallyodowd concurred, @Mia and @theearspace said they'd pay $30 per month.
Most HBO fans, however, want the service to be priced in the $10 to $15 range, which is about what consumers pay now for the cable version. And at that price point, HBO is going to have a hard time justifying the risks.
HBO has spent years building and maintaining its relationship with pay-TV providers. If it abandons them now, how do you think they will react? Those who want an online-only service seem to think that HBO would be able to continue producing the cable version of its network. But the truth is that the old HBO would slowly die off. And without the revenue it earns from the cable industry, it might not be able to continue producing new hit shows. It may also lack the funds to pay for big-budget movie premieres every Saturday night. Slowly but surely, HBO would transform into just another Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX).
It's true that HBO launched HBO Go to compete with Netflix and to stay relevant at a time when users want to watch their favorite shows on a multitude of devices. But HBO had no intention of turning it into a separate service. Could the day come when it changes its mind? Sure. But for now, HBO wants you to subscribe to cable before you can watch the next season of True Blood.
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