Bloomberg reported yesterday that HBO has rejected Netflix’s offers to stream content through the Netflix video on demand service. Instead, HBO plans to concentrate on their HBO Go service, for which they plan an iPad app in addition to offering video on demand through some cable systems. Responding to questions about HBO’s desire to go it alone, president Eric Kessler responded, “There is value in exclusivity.”
Perhaps there is, but sadly, HBO is leaving some of that value on the table, because HBO Go is only available to current subscribers to their cable channel. I watch a couple of HBO shows, but not enough that I’m willing to subscribe to their premium cable channel. In fact, I’d really like to get rid of my cable subscription altogether, a goal that’s getting more realistic by the day with services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and iTunes. But HBO apparently isn’t interested in customers like me. If don’t have cable TV service, HBO won’t allow me to buy a subscription to HBO Go, even if I were willing to pay the full price of their premium cable channel.
Now, in my ideal world, HBO would offer episodes for sale a la carte through iTunes, the way most other TV shows (and some of HBO’s back catalog) are sold. But I can imagine how their subscription model, in which you have to buy the whole package, makes sense for them and provides some guaranteed income. The problem is, the subscription model doesn’t need to rely on cable TV. Just saying “we have an iPad app” isn’t going to help very much when those iPad users start deciding that they no longer want to pay Comcast $50/month for shoddy service. iPad owners likely to be the first ones to ditch their cable subscriptions. Why not let them pay for the content, even if it’s on a subscription basis, regardless of whether they have cable?