You know the drill: In order to get HBO, or any major pay channel for that matter, you have to subscribe to dozens or usually hundreds of channels. The $10 to $12 you pay for HBO is a good deal in content, until you bake in the larger expense of having to get cable television. But that may be changing, very soon.
Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes made some telling comments at the recent Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference in New York. HBO and TWC have in the past stated that there would not likely be an unbundling of HBO, not selling the service just on its own. But Bewkes this week talked about being open to bundling it with broadband service. Time Warner needs to have some extra profit motivation to keep HBO fans engaged, and it looks like this would do the trick for them.
HBO is currently available via streaming with HBO Go, the service that is broadband-based. However, you currently need to be a cable TV subscriber to access HBO Go. It does not matter if you have HBO Go on Apple TV or on the web or on Roku; you still need to be a TWC cable TV subscriber to stream. This new plan would change that. You would only need to be signed up for Time Warner’s broadband, and then you could also order HBO à la cate, and stream it any way you would like. The combination of an HBO subscription and broadband cable (without TV channels) is still a little pricey, but typically less than half the price of a standard cable TV package.
It’s great to see the suits in major content services like TWC rub their chins and ponder a different future, but unfortunately time is not standing still. Netflix has already become the next HBO, and is offered for less than $10 while offering much more on-demand movies and TV series than HBO could in a given month. Channels like HBO are a hook to sell the bigger package, such as a digital cable service, but consumers are growing weary of rising cable prices. If Netflix is less than $10 and a cable package is $100 or more, it does not take much effort to see the math that is making many jump the cable and satellite ship.
TWC can ponder, but needs to make a move and decide one way or the other. The ground it is losing weekly may never be recovered. TV is being reinvented much like previous industries like the music business and book business, and clinging to the past with no reinvention or correlation to the current trends could spell disaster in the next few years.