HBO wants you to become addicted to their shows, and it turns out they don't really care if you do it somewhat nefariously.
You think you're sticking it to the man when you steal your buddy's HBO Go password to binge on Game of Thrones? Wrong. According to HBO CEO Richard Plepler, you're simply playing into their hands.
"To us, in many ways, it's a terrific marketing vehicle for the next generation of viewers and it is actually not material at all to our business," said Plepler in an interview with Buzzfeed.
"It's not that we're ignoring it, and we're looking at different ways to affect password sharing, I'm simply telling you that it's not a fundamental problem, and the externality of it - it presents the brand to more and more people and gives them the opportunity to hopefully become addicted to it.
What we're in the business of doing it building addicts - building video addicts. And the way we do that is by exposing our product, and our shows, and our brand to more and more people."
That's a pretty progressive stance - one that should make password-sharers pretty happy. But Plepler also makes a terrific point - and you can see that HBO is playing the long game here. Expose people to great programming that they simply cannot live without, and you have a future subscriber.
Of course, one of the main reasons that people share HBO Go passwords is HBO's fault. Unlike other streaming video apps like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Instant Video, HBO is still tied to the ball & chain that is cable TV. In order to access HBO Go, you have to be an HBO subscriber through one cable company or another. It's a real drag and something that the internet (and cordcutting movement in particular) has been pretty vocal about in their frustration.
People shouldn't hold their breath, as HBO is living comfortably with this model. It's not like HBO hasn't thought about offering a standalone HBO Go service - one free of the ties of cable - but right now, that's what works for the decades-old company.
Plepler reiterated that position to Buzzfeed.:
“Right now, that’s the right model for us. Are we always thinking about optionality, of course we are always thinking about optionality...if the arithmetic changes and made sense in a different way we are not going to be caught without the ability to pivot.”
Of course, HBO Go's inaccessibility leads to password sharing. It also leads to piracy - which, oddly enough, is another thing that HBO has a history of simply brushing off.
“I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but it is a compliment of sorts,” HBO programming head Michael Lombardo said of Game of Thrones piracy last year. “The demand is there. And it certainly didn’t negatively impact the DVD sales. [Piracy is] something that comes along with having a wildly successful show on a subscription network.”
In fact, his true worry came when he thought about downloaders receiving an inferior product.
“One of my worries is about the copies [downloaders are] seeing. The production values of this show are so incredible. So I’m hoping that in the purloined different generation of cuts that the show is holding up.”
Here's the bottom line: HBO is so, so good. Their shows are so, so good. They know this. You know this. And until their current model starts to deteriorate, there's simply no reason to screw with it.
Image via Wikipedia, HBO