Mar 25 2013

News - HBO Go "Could Evolve" Into a Broadband Subscription Service

HBO GoHBO has established itself as one of the premier television content creators in the world, and although the company has developed a streaming solution with HBO Go, they have jealously guarded their cable subscription revenue stream by refusing HBO Go to anyone who does not already subscribe to HBO and by refusing to license their content to other streaming services such as Netflix. To date, the only exception to this model has been HBO Nordic in Scandanavia. However, recent comments by HBO CEO Richard Pepler suggests that the company might be starting to court the possibility of potentially offering HBO Go as a standalone service for broadband subscribers. Yes, that is a whole lot hemming and hawing there. HBO finds itself in the unenviable position of trying to leverage HBO Go to gain new subscribers without creating a backlash among cable service providers who count on the draw of HBO to help sell their ever more expensive TV subscription services. The first step in this transition probably won't be the complete untethering that many cord cutters would like to see, but HBO has to start somewhere.

With such a move, HBO could risk stepping on the toes of the cable providers who pay heavy subscription fees for the exclusivity HBO commits to. But then, cable providers and broadband providers are often two arms on the same body (Comcast, Time Warner). If HBO could transfer its subscription fees to broadband bills rather than cable ones, there could be a situation amenable to all parties.

Ars Technica

Sep 03 2012

News - HBO Prepping HBO Nordic Streaming Service for October Release


It has been over two years since HBO unveiled HBO Go, a streaming service that makes all of their content available online for free to subscribers of their premium channels. HBO Go has been immensely popular and the company has frequently fielded questions about the possiblity of HBO Go becoming a standalone product. The company has been steadfast in their stance that HBO Go is only intended to be a complementary product, an additional service for their traditional subscribers, and with good reason. A standalone HBO Go would be unlikely to return the margins that they enjoy on their traditional subscription TV contracts, anger their cable and satellite partners, and cannablize their current subscriber base.

However, if you really wanted the standalone equivalent of HBO Go, you could do worse than to make the move to Sweden next month. HBO announced that they were planning on making a move into Scandanavia ealier this month, the same day that Netflix announced that they would be expanding their service into the same region to take on the incumbent Amazon-owned LOVEFiLM, but at the time, HBO was not providing many details about what the freshly dubbed HBO Nordic would look like beyond that it would be multi-platform. This week, HBO announced that HBO Nordic should launch in October and in addition to a 24-hour premium channel offered through local distributors, HBO Nordic's streaming service would be a standalone offering. To further sweeten the pot, HBO Nordic will also stream content from HBO rivals Starz and Showtime  as the companies lack international businesses. While getting HBO, Netflix, and LOVEFiLM all in the same region with the same basic business model should serve to create some amusing fireworks, it is still somewhat disappointing that the only reason Scandanavia is going to get so many choices is because HBO has so little entrenched business interest to protect in the region.

Premium TV channel HBO will launch a Web-only service in Nordic countries that does not require the customer to be signed up with a pay TV service such as cable or satellite.

HBO Nordic, which is a joint venture between Time Warner Inc -owned HBO and Parsifal International, will roll out both a premium TV service and the Web service in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland from mid-October.


Jul 26 2012

News - Netflix Reaches Out to HBO, HBO Turns Up Their Nose

Netflix recently released their Q2 results, announcing a return to profitability after taking a $5M hit in Q1. The company didn't bring on as many new subscribers as expected, including a narrow miss in Latin America, the UK and Ireland where the company recently launched. In spite of this miss, the company plans to go in the red again next quarter in order to fund an expansion deeper into Europe. Netflix also spent a part of their report talking up the advantages of convincing HBO to come onboard with Netflix, irregardless of the two companies' recent rocky past

Looking at those two sections from Netflix together, it reads like a love letter or to be more precise, a pitch to HBO to collaborate. If the back seasons of one current hit HBO show were on Netflix (i.e. Game of Thrones), think how many HBO subscriptions that could drive. 

Tech of the Hub

HBO has put a tremendous amount of effort into their HBO GO service, steadfastly refusing to license their content to any other streaming service. HBO and Netflix have both described each other as primary competitors, and given that HBO may be producing the most coveted content on TV today, finding a way to collaborate would be a major coup for Netflix, even if such a collaboration also increased interest in HBO subscriptions. However, it doen't appear that we will learn how mutually beneficial such a relationship might be anytime soon.

HBO rushed to pour cold water on the possibilities that the Netflix CEO raised in a letter to shareholders, making it clear it had no intentions of making a deal with Hastings, who often singles out HBO as a chief competitor.


Mar 28 2012

News - Comcast XFINITY, HBO Go, and Launch for Xbox 360 Amid Shifts in Xbox Live Usage

HBO Go for Xbox

Evidently Comcast posted those support pages just in time as the Comcast XFINITY TV app for Xbox 360 is now available. Joining XFINITY TV are and the long awaited HBO Go app. As we have come to expect from most of the Xbox Live entertainment apps, only Xbox Live Gold subscribers can partake of the streaming, and each service has its own additional restrictions. HBO Go and XFINITY TV are available exclusively to subscribers, though interestingly enough Comcast subscribers will not be able to access HBO Go on the Xbox. This will also be true for Time Warner Cable subscribers. The service is also subscription-based, though it does offer some limited functionality for non-subscribers such as standings and game recaps. All three apps also include Kinect support.

Confirming yesterday's whispers, Microsoft announced that today marks the launch of Comcast Xfinity, HBO Go, and apps for Xbox Live — three new heavy-hitters that join the likes of Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, VEVO, and more. The launches mark a milestone for the Xbox 360 as the company poises to make the home console a versatile media hub not just for gamers.

The Verge

The new apps launch as Microsoft reveals that their strategy to transform the Xbox 360 from a hardcore game console into a versatile media device appears to be paying dividends. For the first time ever, Xbox Live users used their Xbox systems more for watching video content and listening to music than for playing games online. 

Microsoft has also shared some rather interesting stats for its new entertainment apps on Xbox 360. Xbox Live Gold members in the US are now spending an average of 84 hours per month on Xbox Live, with entertainment app usage more than doubled year on year. 

The Verge

Mar 14 2012

News - HBO Adjusting Exclusivity Agreements to Allow for iCloud Syncing


By now, we've all become accustomed to the movie industry's efforts to continue to enforce traditional release windows and exclusivity deals. One of the vagaries of these deals often comes up in relation to streaming and digital distribution systems, where movies can seem to arrive later than one would expect or can come and go, seemingly at random. One of the most common reasons for these situations relate to the deals that movie studios sign with networks that give the networks exclusive distribution windows. This is particularly true for HBO, whose deals with movie studios give HBO almost complete distribution control over non-physical formats. This has been an impediment to digital locker systems in the past because HBO's exclusive control meant that the movie might not always be available for streaming or extended access. With Apple bringing movie syncing to iCloud, HBO has agreed to adjust their deals so that movie studios can allow for movies to be synced to Apple's cloud. It does not mean that  HBO is giving up its exclusivity windows, only that consumers who have purchased a movie will still be able to access the movie from iCloud. At this point, all of the discussion seems to involve iCloud, but we can probably look forward to more services coming online that require similar agreements.

HBO is working on loosening its grip on movie studios in order to allow them to offer their films to sync across Apple's iCloud, the Wall Street Journal has confirmed. This means that, eventually, films from Universal and Fox may soon enjoy the same iCloud syncing as films from Lions Gate, Sony Pictures, Disney, Paramount, and Warner Bros.

Ars Technica

Jan 06 2012

News - HBO Refusing to Provide Discs to Netflix

Netflix and HBO

I guess the executives at HBO decided the "Lilyhammer" trailer that Netflix released a couple of days ago looked pretty good. In just about a month Netflix will break into the world of original programming with a show that looks, at least vaguely, like the type of show that HBO has become famous for over the last 10-15 years. One has to assume that this is why HBO has decided that they are no longer going to provide discs to Netflix for their rental service. It won't actually have any impact on Netflix's ability to offer HBO discs, but it will require that Netflix buy the discs from a third party. Should HBO be nervous about Netflix's expansion into original programming, or is the timing of HBO's decision simply coincidence?

The move is said to be "largely symbolic," as Netflix still owns whichever discs it purchased previously and can still legally purchase future HBO discs from other parties and rent them to customers under the copyright doctrine of first sale. (Indeed, Netflix tell us it will continue to offer HBO DVDs and Blu-rays, although it's never had any HBO content on its streaming service.)

The Verge

Dec 16 2011

News - Time Warner Finally Embraces HBO Go and MAX Go


HBO's streaming service, HBO Go, has been one of the most talked about streaming services of the last couple of years and provides an example of the future of media streaming that other premium networks are looking to emulate, but if you were an HBO subscriber with Time Warner Cable, then you were left out in the cold. It would appear that TWC has had a change of heart as they have inked a deal with HBO that will bring HBO Go and MAX Go to TWC subscribers early next year. Unfortunately, the details of the announcement do not indicate whether TWC subscribers will be access HBO Go and MAX Go on devices such as the Roku. Other cable providers have inexplicably chosen to block HBO Go and MAX Go on devices, forcing users to rely on a browser for access. Hopefully TWC will buck the trend and put pressure on other cable providers to open up their pipes a bit wider.

Well that took interminably long. Time Warner Inc and Time Warner Cable havefinally inked a deal that will bring the much-anticipated streaming service to TWC HBO and Cinemax subscribers within the next month.


Oct 11 2011

News - UltraViolet Launch Spurs Changes for Warner Bros. and HBO

HBO Logo

We've all encountered instances where a movie, seemingly at random, becomes unavailable from the streaming service or digital storefront of our choice, only to return some time later without explanation. There are a variety of different licensing restrictions that could cause this, but one of the most common causes is special set of licensing restrictions that HBO has traditionally held that grants HBO exclusive digital rights to a movie while they are showing it on their service.

With the UltraViolet digital locker service getting ready to launch, some studios are starting to understand that they are going to have a hard time explaining to customers why they can't download their movies for months at a time. So far it's only Warner Bros. that has cut a deal to lift this particular licensing restriction, but I would expect that we will hear about more such announcements going forward.

UltraViolet hopes to make digital ownership of movies more attractive, by allowing consumers to buy a title once and access it anywhere or on any device. One of the big questions revolving around the impending launch of UltraViolet streaming video services was whether or not studios would have to deal with the rights window, during which HBO has exclusive access to those titles online. Until recently, that meant movies purchased online couldn’t be accessed while HBO had pay TV rights to that content.


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