Wednesday, July 13, 2011

HBO Knows The Way to "Go"

Television continues to evolve

This really isn’t an advertisement for HBO, but it may sound like one.

I’m very interested in the changes taking place over time in the way people “watch TV." I first wrote about this back on May 20.

DVRs allowed us to “time shift”, Netflix gutted the traditional video rental business by giving us new ways to get movies and other programming on our schedule, Hulu delivers conventional television content to our computers, and IP Set Top Boxes let us get web video onto our TVs. In short, we no longer watch our father's TV.

The next big thing, what the cable TV industry calls "over the top" video, might be packaging up premium content in slick web interfaces and mobile device apps and making it available to existing subscribers.  HBO has done a masterful job of this with HBO GOHBO GO is an elegant web interface that allows users to log in with the credentials associated with their cable television provider account (Verizon FiOS in my case) and then to select programming to watch online.  The interface is pleasing and intuitive, and the selection of content is great. The application has a "watchlist" feature that allows for bookmarking individual shows and series to watch in the future.

A minor disappointment is that HBO GO seems to only allow one viewer at a time with a single set of credentials.  While I understand the need to avoid abuse through password sharing, this restriction does seem to mean that two family members in the same subscriber household cannot watch HBO GO at once.  Perhaps the answer involves acquiring multiple sets of login credentials with the cable provider.

HBO has figured out that the “app” on mobile devices is the new frontier. Over time, I believe that more people will consume entertainment video content on smartphones and tablets than in any other way. The iPad app for HBO GO is the first killer app in this space. It's top-notch, and the iPad's simple ability to connect by cable to a TV means that I can easily put my HBO GO content on any TV with HDMI interfaces.

How long until HBO GO without a cable TV subscription becomes an option? How long until you can just have a direct billing relationship with HBO (and other favorite content providers) rather than your cable company?  This dis-intermediation has obvious appeal for consumers who want unbundling of cable TV content rather than paying for large packages with many channels that go unwatched. But it is unlikely to happen in the short term, since the big cable TV distribution companies (like Comcast and Cablevision) and the premium content providers (like HBO) have a well established business relationship that neither wants to break – until it becomes clear that breaking it is a financial win for one or both of them.

Have you tried HBO GO? Can you see yourself moving toward web and mobile devices for your premium content? Please leave a comment here and tell us what you think.


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