Selling Your Soul for HBO

HBO is pulling all the stops to get people and keep people hooked on the massively expensive Game of Thrones series. Between the food vans and free ride Iron Thrones rolling through the streets, I don’t think anyone didn’t know this show was coming. And I really have to applaud HBO for it. I can’t help but wonder how a few other shows would have fared in the past, if only their network put this kind of dedicated force behind their marketing. Firefly, anyone?

Alas.

More recently, they’re offering an opportunity to watch the seventh episode of the series directly after the sixth airs in exchange for signing up for their HBO GO service. HBO GO is basically their version of Hulu Plus, which allows you to stream movies, shows and clips after they air via your iPad, iPhone, video game console or computer. Unfortunately, this service is only available to HBO subscribers.

Which brings me to what I’m less happy with HBO over, and subscription based networks in general.

The entertainment industry is moving forward, embarking on new and exciting territory to settle ground on the internet. More and more readers are making the leap to e-book devices every day. You can stream movies from the comfort of your own couch with services such as Netflix, Playstation Network, and Xbox Live. And with Hulu Plus, you can watch your favorite basic network TV shows the day after they air. The draw for all of these services, funnily enough, isn’t being able to watch TV on your smartphone. People are paying for the freedom to choose what they want to watch, when they want to watch it.

In February 2011, Borders announced the liquidation and closing of 226 stores. (Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg)

In February 2011, Borders announced the liquidation and closing of 226 stores. (Image: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg)

Companies who aren’t keeping up are going to… well, be left behind. Hollywood Video went out of business, and Blockbuster is struggling. Barnes & Noble is seeing success with their Nook device, while Borders is filing Chapter 11.

 

Will HBO find itself among the casualties of the on-line revolution? I don’t see it happening any time soon, but if they continue to stubbornly cling to a dated format it will happen. HBO GO is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. I know that I’m not the only one that cut my “cable ties” years ago. I watch everything on-line, and I gladly pay for Hulu Plus, Netflix, and I would jump at the opportunity to subscribe to HBO GO. But I will not purchase a digital cable package – full of channels I will never watch – to subscribe to HBO and additionally register for GO. Even if I did choose to do that, it feels to me like a deal with the devil: I get my Game of Thrones streaming whenever I want, but I’m supporting an archaic system that I feel should be left in the past. Is that really something I want to do?

HBO, I’m begging you. Step outside of the box and make GO available to those without cable service. I guarantee your ratings will shoot through the roof for it. Locking everyone out isn’t bringing you new business – it’s encouraging piracy.

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