De ne neh ne neh ne neh ne neh… The iconic HBO theme song from the 80s still stirs excitement for me and I’m guessing many of you as well. Growing up with HBO as the sole premium movie service in our household, and with the local video store and Blockbuster not playing a key role in my life until high school and beyond, I’ve grown loyal and attached to their offerings.
Over the last decade (ok, it has been 14 years, but who’d counting?), HBO has enhanced its movie offerings with some of the best original content on TV. Starting with Oz and following up with hit after hit, including Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, and True Blood, HBO has endeared itself to the public.
But HBO has not merely been an innovator in programming, they have innovated in delivery methods as well. Starting with various local delivery methods and then becoming the first TV network to continuously deliver via satellite before returning to cable as an add-on for existing subscribers, where it stayed. But, maintaining that tradition, and sensing a need in the market, HBO launched a service last year called HBO Go. Available for free to existing subscribers, users could watch HBO programming on their computers, iPads and other portable devices, including full back-catalogs of current shows, putting a new degree of freedom in the hands of consumers.
Unfortunately, there was a major catch. HBO GO was only available to subscribers of certain cable providers (also called a Multiple System Operator, or MSO for short) who had struck deals with HBO to allow the service. While Comcast and Verizon’s Fios were among the first to make the offering available, at the time of this post, much of the country still lacks access. Moreover, non-cable subscribers are out of luck: There is NO way for someone to pay HBO directly for the service. HBO requires users sign up for HBO via their existing cable provider and authenticate with them. This system arguably preserves existing relationships between the premium network and its direct customers (the cable providers), but it seems oppressive and out of place in today’s app-centric world.
In response to this disappointing reality, MG Siegler, a partner at CrunchFund and Columnist at TechCrunch posted a letter to HBO requesting HBO allow him (a cord-cutter) to subscribe to HBO GO directly. In a well-thought-out parody post, Jeremy Toeman, a long-time thought-leader in the digital/connected video space, with history at Sling Media, Mediabolic and now with Dijit Media, responded to Siegler explaining why HBO would never make the offering directly to consumers.
WHICH brings me to the point of this post. While Toeman’s points were likely exactly what HBO would say if it had taken the time to reply itself, and they are rational and understandable, HBO should still dive in and offer HBO GO directly to consumers. In a guest post on Toeman’s blog, LIVEdigitally, I respond to his letter and make the case once again, that cable would not be hurt and that HBO would grow both subscribers and revenue by making this move.
Please check out my arguments and the full text of the letter at:
And don’t forget to leave comments there, here or via Twitter @LCMilstein to continue the discussion.
HBO, if you’re reading this, thanks for considering it!