HBO to offer standalone Internet subscriptions, no cable/satellite required, starting next year

“While continuing to seek subscribers from cable and satellite, HBO will start to sell its service separately via the Internet next year,” Brian Stelter reports for CNNMoney. “‘It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO,’ the network’s chief executive Richard Plepler said Wednesday. ‘So, in 2015, we will launch a stand-alone, over-the-top HBO service in the United States.'”

“It’s a monumental change for HBO, which is currently sold only through cable and satellite providers,” Stelter reports. “Selling HBO via the Internet is a second avenue for growth. ‘All in all, there are 80 million homes that do not have HBO, and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them,’ Plepler said.”

“HBO declined to comment on any of the particulars of the Internet service, such as monthly price or launch date. There was immediate speculation that the Internet version of HBO might be differentiated in some way from the service that cable and satellite subscribers receive,” Stelter reports. “In the context of the Internet service, Plepler pointedly did not mention HBO GO, the network’s popular app for cable and satellite subscribers. But he said the network would work with its existing partners and “explore models with new partners… While Plepler’s comments were limited to the U.S., he said the market for a stand-alone version of HBO could be even bigger outside the U.S.”

Read more in the full article here.

54 Comments

    1. Was that falling sound I heard Netflix stock? Yes, it was only a matter of time until even HBO woke up to reality. Can the networks be far behind? Who in the world watches broadcast anymore? All those commercials? Really? Morons….

      1. Everyone I know has TiVo type devices and time shifts as well as super fast zooms through commercials. And you can bet that HBO and others on Internet will have plenty of commercial that you cannot zoom through. Just like CNN, USA Today, you will be forced to watch a commercial before you get your video. When pay TV started it seemed wonderful. Pay your fee and no commercials. But today there are as many commercials on cable as over the air. You will pay for HBO and still get commercials. iCal me on this, will you?

        1. Sadly, I think this is spot-on. Worse, it’ll probably be like Hulu Plus, where not only do you pay to see commercials, but it’ll be the same FOUR commercials, over and over again during a one hour program…till they fade into a mind-numbing wallpaper you don’t consciously sense anymore. (I guess they think that if they show the same San Diego Tourism video 800 more times, I’ll magically go there. No offense San Diegoans.)

          All that being said, I still think the announcement is a good thing since I cut the cord five years ago. It’s just that people who think they’ll escape commercials this way are kidding themselves. I can vouch for that.

    1. I love the smell of burning comb-overs in the morning. It smells like victory. There are a few thousand cable/satellite executives this morning with what hair they have left on fire, and the sparks are about to ignite their polyester suits. They thought they were safe. They thought they could answer every challenge with, “I fart in your general direction.”

      Their days are now numbered as the loyal vassals begin to defect. First HBO, then ESPN, or maybe the NFL, or MLB. And Apple is waiting just outside the gates to accept fealty from the deserters. It’s a new day.

    1. HBO typically does include Cinemax but the could split it out. It’s all in how they think they can make the most money. If we don’t buy the a la carte offering, they will provide the suite.

      1. I get HBO & variants without Cinemax because I already subsidize too much bullshit I do not want to bother with more.

        I wonder how much this decision has to do with Comcast wanting to swallow Time-Warner Cable and AT&T wanting to swallow Direct TV. They have met a lot of resistance over lack of competition and maybe the Cable cartel has relented to get the mergers approved.

    1. Netflix was not even the first domino, the pirates have been FORGing the way long before. The crazy thing is how long the other players have been able to hold out. Now that the rats are leaving the sinking ship, wonder how many other casualties are on the way. Definitely blood in the water now….

  1. This is it. The log jam has broken. Apple TV is not going to be s hobby for much longer, maybe only another 24 hours. Other services like ESPN will quickly follow. The cable/satellite business will never be the same. Game over.

    1. I’m not even so sure that ESPN will survive. NFL, MLB, NCAA, NBA and NHL already have their own programming. With one or more of these direct subscriptions, who really needs ESPN? Of course any of the leagues can include ESPN but I think in the long run, they would prefer to remove the middle man.

    2. ESPN makes a freakin’ mint from the carriage fees cable companies pay. I doubt they’re willing to poison their golden goose by abandoning that profitable model. The existence of an internet-only subscription service would be used by cable and satellite to negotiate the rates down next time.

      ——RM

  2. They’re going to need a hell of a lot more good shows to make it worth the money. This would be a godsend in 2002 but in 2014 all they have is Game of Thrones. It’s cheaper to just buy the seasons on iTunes.

    1. Uh huh. The consumer takes charge. You’re doing it already. THAT is what will make these networks provide the programming that viewers want in a hopefully ad-free environment.

  3. This is the beginning of the end for cable companies who have locked consumers into contracts while providing piss-poor customer service. As I’ve said before, I hope others (Showtime and Starz) follow the lead. Then the other “basic” cable suites along with a networksuite can follow suit. Rather than broadcasting, the companies can simply make their programming available for on-demand viewing. This is the best service that Apple can provide in the area of TV in my view. This puts consumers in charge and relieves us of being forced into purchasing packages of cable programming where most channels are those we don’t want while our most desired channels are in expensive packages. Further, no more does a provider lose the whole FOX suite because the provider doesn’t want to pay more in contract negotiations. Now, the FOX suite can just be there available for interested viewers. This will also force networks to provide year-round programming rather than leaving us with rerun programming over the summer.

    1. I have a feeling that:
      A: We will still need a cable package for the one or two channels that we love that have no other delivery method.
      B: The aggregate cost of buying individual channels will exceed what cable subscriptions cost now.
      C: Internet connection prices will skyrocket.

      Right now, in my area, my cable company delivers the highest speed internet service. I haven’t checked recently, but I suspect that if I buy just that service it will cost a lot more than it does now bundled with the TV channels package.

      Until there are there are some real options in high speed internet pipes for suburban neighborhoods, this may not end up being the boon it seems.

      1. I watch probably less than 50 hours of ESPN a year and use cable for HBO, and a few International News channels. I watch Mad Men, for example, by iTunes season pass to avoid the obnoxious commercials and superimposed ads that increasingly invade program content.

        I do not watch Fox and rarely watch the broadcast nets with the exception of PBS which I increasingly do not watch, either.

        Sky News, Bloomberg Business News are available already on the Apple TV. If we can get France 24, NHK, BBC World News and CNN International we will be good.

        Most of the few good shows on TV are on HBO and Showtime. Most of the rest are the lowest form of shit imaginable and are larded with commercials to the point of making one crazy.

        I do not mind paying for content, but despise commercials.

      2. Alas, I believe your comment about Internet connection prices skyrocketing will come true. Already my cable company, with whom I have only Internet service and landline telephone, has placed data caps on our usage and charges for overages. That trend will only continue as cable companies start losing revenue from paid video subscribers. I can only hope that competition for high speed Internet will increase in my area.

        1. I get my DSL from an independent ISP along with my domain hosting, email hoisting, etc. The price is very reasonable and the speeds are adequate. Cable and satellite can’t raise prices too much because those independents will kill them if they do.

  4. Was that grinding noise a paradigm being shifted? And that giant thud was local monopolies of network OTA programming dropping over dead. Will debundling of cable/ satellite offerings be far behind?

    I hope the timing of this HBO announcement is related to tomorrows Apple event. And the pressure on connectivity offerings will be intense. LTE bandwidth is going down, price wise, because it lets the mobile operators compete directly with the wired and satellite providers. Dropping satellite and seeing my wireless bill reduced (or bandwidth increased for the same cost) would be too good.

    1. May the networks rue the day that the won the SCOTUS lawsuit against the company that wanted to store their silly offerings and provide them on-demand. The walls are crumbling down and true market forces will hopefully win the day. People who object to content can drop that subscription without disrupting every other channel they like – all 20 or so of them along with the other 150 channels in their package that they’ve never heard of. I’d be looking for lots of media M&A. Either the big guys will merge and/or gobble the little guys or the littleguys will seek shelter from the Disneys, GEs and Viacoms of the world – any other company whose profits will offset their losses.

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