And now there could be yet another reason to cut the cord. Today, HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler announced at an investor meeting that the network will offer an online-only streaming service starting next year. “That is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped,” Plepler said. “It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO. So, in 2015, we will launch a stand-alone, over-the-top, HBO service in the United States.” The distribution models haven’t been solidified, but Plepler ran down the possibilities of working through broadband services (e.g. Time Warner, Comcast), new partners (e.g. Amazon, Google), or go straight to consumers like Netflix.
Hit the jump for more.
In order to stay competitive with Netflix and other streaming services, offering an online-only HBO is a smart play, especially since so many non-customers are already piggybacking onto friends and families’ HBO GO accounts to the point where it can crash the service as was the case with the season finale of True Detective and the season four premiere of Game of Thrones. Considering the expense of not only a cable subscription, but also the premium add-on HBO requires, the temptation to jump onto someone else’s account is understandable.
As EW points out, “The network’s most popular program in its history, Game of Thrones, has been ranked the most pirated TV show in the world, and one common refrain among illegal downloaders is that there is no way to legally obtain the series in a timely manner without opting into an expensive cable TV package.” That’s still a dumb reason to pirate (“What am I going to do? Not watch Game of Thrones?!”), but they’re pirating it all the same, and HBO has an opportunity to turn those pirates into customers. (The downside is that now pirates will use this as an example to continuing pirating as if it were a positive force for economic change; “I’m not stealing! I’m helping!”)
It will be interesting to see the ripple effect of this service. How will it affect HBO’s cable business? Will subscribers simply move from one place to another? How will this affect HBO’s current deal with Amazon Prime, which currently offers unlimited access to some of HBO’s older series? There’s still a lot we don’t know, but the bigger picture is that if HBO is the only thing keeping you tied to a cable package filled with channels you don’t want and shows you can watch elsewhere, then this is a game changer.