Okay, it’s still kind of sitting in the rumours phase, but it appears HBO is finally ready to launch their standalone subscription streaming service (supposedly called HBO Now). For many cord-cutters (meaning those of us who have cancelled our traditional cable television services) HBO was reason enough to hold out, particularly for fans of certain HBO programming (Game of Thrones for instance; I may as well say it, you were all thinking it… particularly with the projected timing for an April launch).
The cost is being estimated at $15 USD per month, which quite frankly seems a little steep to me. While it’s true that HBO content comes with a lot of quality production value (which they hope will help justify their premium price-tag), when we start purchasing channels a-la-carte in this manner, it needs to make financial sense –and while $15 isn’t a lot, when you consider the library that comes along with the likes of Netflix or Hulu Plus for a lot less it becomes harder to justify the subscription.
Details are a little sketchy at the moment, including which platforms will be supported. It has always been assumed that Apple TV would be among the first on board (just like they were with HBO Go, which still required a cable package that included the channel), but it would seem careless to exclude others like Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV.
You can bet that lots of other networks are watching this launch carefully, waiting to see how quickly people embrace the idea of buying their favourite ‘channels’ one at a time. No matter the results, it won’t tell the whole story: not everybody can charge as much as HBO, so can smaller networks like ABC or CBS still make money if they come in at something like $0.99/month? can there be two rates (one with advertisements, one without)? will there be minimum time periods for subscription or can people drop service in the summer when it is all reruns anyway? will there be an easy way to manage multiple standalone subscriptions (at a certain point, your time is worth something too)?
There will be lots of details to sort out, but we need to see a little proof of concept first.
If you had your choice (or maybe you already do), which channels would you order a-la-carte that would satisfy all of your television viewing needs?
There are very few series that I watch while they are still current, so my needs are few: Netflix (can’t live without House of Cards now even if I tried), Hulu Plus (which may be missing a few titles, like Big Bang Theory from CBS, but it’s comprehensive enough to give me Vikings and keep me happy), NHL Gamecentre Live (seasonally, of course), and now HBO. I’ve toyed a little with Shomi and not been terribly impressed. I constantly flirt with Amazon Prime (which I have never had, so I don’t know what I am missing and that may be for the best).
Traditional cable is going the way of the dodo for real now, which means consumers no longer have to put up with the old way of doing television subscriptions (I bet there isn’t a single person reading this who hasn’t had to pay for an entire tier of cable just to bump your subscription up a notch so you can get a single other channel that of course is pretty much the main one you care about).
In other news, new episodes of Game of Thrones are coming soon!