I’ve reported before that it may be possible to stream HBO without paying for cable. That is, to pay for HBO GO — iPad/Internet version of HBO — without having to shell out for monthly TV service. This was no more than a mere rumor it seems.
This week, however, HBO announced they will begin to sell HBO as a broadband streaming service. This means that sometime next year consumers will be able to buy HBO GO directly from TimeWarner, HBO’s parent company, without having to purchase it through their cable provider. This streaming service would be similar to Netflix where you pay a monthly subscription fee directly to TimeWarner. (I don’t know whether this will be available in countries other than the US when it launches.)
Presumably TimeWarner is offering this service in response to the staggering piracy of HBO’s top show, Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones piracy set a world record last spring. The Purple Wedding episode had 1.5 million people downloading it on the first day after it aired.
Right now, journalists are speculating HBO will try to release the service some time next year. I’d wager HBO will try to release it before the next season of Game of Thrones to reduce online piracy.
For people like me who pretty much pay for cable TV only to get HBO, this sounds like a godsend. There are, however, a few catches:
- One media outlet, The Information, is reporting that the service could cost as much as $15/month (USD), roughly $4-$6 more than Netflix.
- Cable providers may increase Internet-only rates to compensate for lost business if too many people begin to drop cable TV. (This is only speculation on my part.)
The other interesting aspect of the HBO GO service is that it might mean that HBO will be competing with Netflix and Amazon’s streaming service.
Offering the HBO GO service without a cable provider is tricky for HBO. Cables companies are the hand that feeds it. In the United States about 100 million households subscribe to cable TV packages. When HBO made the online service announcement this week, Time Warner executives told The Street that they are hoping to reach the 10 Million who only subscribe to broadband. What they didn’t say was that they don’t want to cannibalize the existing cable TV audience and have more people leave their cable TV service behind.