What HBO’s New Non-Subscriber Strategy Could Mean for the Video Content Industry

Nobody loves their cable company. People complain about them more than any other utility company. And even though it’s really the only utility company that’s voluntary, most people get their content from cable. Customers often complain that to raise their rates frequently, hold monopolies on services, and provide spotty services.


Images source variety.com

If you don’t want to go the cable route, you can use free, freemium, and pay portals to stream content to through your computer, mobile devices, and supported devices like Roku and Xbox. Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix are all examples of companies that help you find and watch content without a cable subscription.

However, there are some types of content that you will probably miss if you don’t subscribe to cable. HBO’s current original content is only available through a cable subscription. After each season is over, you can buy the DVDs or download it through Amazon.

What HBO Wants to Do

A few years back, HBO launched HBOGO, a web and mobile app that allows you to watch its original content through devices other than a cable box. You still needed a cable subscription and your cable provider needed to participate in the program, but you could watch every single episode of Sex and the City or Game of Thrones whereever you could get a wireless signal.

Last month, reports began that HBO Chief Executive Richard Peplar revealed the company is considering finding a way to offer HBOGO to nonsubscribers. In much the way you pay for Netflix and Hulu Plus, you would pay for HBO.

Of course, it’s still in the early stages. HBO still has to work out a way to do this without upsetting its current distribution deals. It also has to figure out a way to make the it work in terms of cost and profit. Even in the best of circumstances, we probably won’t see any sign of this service for another year.

How That Changes Everything

In the short term, this just means that more people will have access to HBO original programming. But when you remember that Game of Thrones is one of the most pirated series in the world, you see what HBO is trying to do here. Research has shown that when given reasonable access to content, most people won’t pirate it. So HBO will definitely see some benefits in their bottom line.

But on a larger scale, remember that HBO is a leader in the premium content industry. It started original programming before its rivals Showtime, Starz, and Cinemax and the rest followed shortly. When it launched its mobile app, it was only months later that Showtime launched its own. If it starts offering subscriptions without a cable TV tie-in, the other will likely follow.

And let’s not forget that the only thing keeping many cable subscribers paying their monthly bills are the premium subscription channels that make it difficult to get current content elsewhere. Netflix has already filled the void for movies and older TV shows. Hulu Plus is doing the same for network television. If HBOGO becomes untethered from cable, the industry will see even more loss of consumers.

Eventually, the change will trickle down to cable companies who will have to figure out another way to make money. But their loss is the average consumer’s gain.

Bio: Jay Preston is author and Brand Manager for ToolHQ. He enjoys writing about tech topics and general guy stuff.

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