Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Even the "Good" Networks Going Online

Don't be mistaken: offering your TV programming online is not a last ditch effort to gain customer loyalty nor maintain a dying audience. Case in point: Popular subscription channel HBO says that it will soon offer its subscribers the option to access movies and original programming on the Web.

HBO, along with fellow subscription channel Showtime, arguably broadcast the best content on TV today, with popular (and edgy) programs like The Sopranos, Entourage, and Curb Your Enthusiasm from HBO, or Dexter, Californication, and Brotherhood from Showtime. HBO certainly isn't suffering for viewership, so is this move simply indicative of the future of TV?

According to the New York Times, HBO is starting the online video offerings in Green Bay and Milwaukee, WI, but plans to roll-out the service through other parts of the U.S. Of course, only those who subscribe to the HBO channel through a cable or satellite provider will be granted access to the online version, but HBO obviously sees value in giving them the option at all.

The New York Times says the programming will be watchable via an application that downloads it to the PC's hard drive. I wonder: will downloads be password-protected? Will there be an additional fee to download a show or movie? More important, does this mean that an HBO subscriber who's traveling outside of the U.S. (even in Canada!) will be able to log-in, download a show, and watch it, no matter where he is?

If this is the case, it's an absolutely fantastic step in allowing customers to enjoy the content they pay for in the ways they want to. But it might also pose concerns for devices like the Sling Media Slingbox and Sony LocationFree TV, which let you tap into your cable or satellite set-top boxes at home to watch programming from anywhere in the world. If you could essentially do this directly from your cable or satellite TV provider, why would you need these additional devices? Imagine being able to log into your cable or satellite TV service using your laptop in the same manner you use a TV and set-top box. The computer monitor becomes your TV screen, and the keyboard your remote.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: nothing beats the in-home, high-definition TV and movie viewing experience, where you can view programming on a big-screen LCD or plasma TV in gorgeous clarity, and enjoy listening in pleasant surround sound. But when you're on-the-go, or just want to catch a quick news program or sitcom in between school or work reports, why not be able to tune in on your PC?

It's entirely possible that this wave toward online video will die out as quickly as it begins. But with consumers more often than not on the go, and becoming increasing frustrated with the lack of quality content on the tube, this shift could be more than just a passing fad.


Beckham said...

first off, curb your enthusiasm!

some of the shows you mention, "californication," "brotherhood" and "dexter" are actually shows produced by HBO's competitor, showtime. and showtime already offer much of their output on iTunes at $1.99 USD per show.

secondly, the NY times article was the sloppiest piece of journalism on this topic and leaves a lot of holes answered by others, including USA today, business week and the hollywood reporter.

according to this blog:


you will NOT be able to log in from anywhere in the world and download new shows, but you can watch on your laptop no matter where you are.

there is no extra fee. this is a value add marketing ploy to cement cable subscriptions to HBO. buy HBO on your TV and we'll give it to you for free on your PC.

it's not about creating a new market, as i see it, but about ensuring future success in a competitive marketplace that demands programming whenever and wherever the customer goes.

it has problems, but it's a good first step. let's see what they come with. this is only their first stab. it is, after all, just a test.

Marketnews - Christine Persaud said...

thanks for the clarification on some of the information, Beckham.

As for the programming, I'm aware that many are from Showtime. My list was meant to include popular programs from BOTH HBO and Showtime, which I think are equally great channels. (Dexter is certainly my favourite from Showtime, while I'd have to go with Entourage for HBO!) I'll add the info in parenthesis to avoid confusion from other readers.

Thanks again for your comments!