Within the next year, HBO is going to do something that people have wanted the venerable network to do for a long, long time.
HBO is finally going to let you watch Game of Thrones without a cable subscription.
Not just Game of Thrones, of course, although that will likely be the most-watched show on HBO's new cordless offering. HBO CEO Richard Plepler made the announcement at an investors conference, saying that his company would move “beyond the wall” and debut a “stand alone, over the top” HBO service sometime next year. It'll launch in the US, and likely spread internationally from there.
"All in, there are 80 million homes that do not have HBO and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them," he said.
If you're a cordcutter, or someone who pays over $100 a month for a cable package so that you can in turn pay another dozen or so bucks to access HBO – this is a very big deal.
For years, HBO has stood firm in its distribution model – one that has worked well for the company. As of now, access to HBO content is linked to cable providers. Although HBO offers an on-demand streaming platform for its shows and movies (HBO Go), that too has been inextricably tied to cable. This means that in order to watch HBO's incredibly popular content, you either bite the bullet and buy a cable package, steal an HBO Go password from a buddy, or just pirate it.
But apparently, that's about to change. Plepler didn't give any additional details on what this will look like – but his vague mention of a standalone HBO Go-like service should make waves. Remember that 'Take My Money, HBO' campaign?
HBO could simply unshackle HBO Go from its cable subscription chains. It could build an entire new framework to deliver its content over the web. HBO could even use existing content distribution platforms to deliver its content. The company already has a deal with Amazon for its older content.
Either way, HBO plans to let you pay for its content without having to also pay for a bulky cable bundle.
As always, HBO is going to do what is best for HBO's bottom line. For years, that was limiting subscriptions to those who also opt for cable. But the landscape has changed. Netflix now has millions more subscribers than HBO, as well as a higher subscriber revenue. I guess avoiding becoming Netflix's bitch played a part in Plepler's decision.
HBO's not going to abandon its tried and true method of acquiring subscribers. Cable providers, through their powerful marketing of HBO products, gives the company too much. It's possible that this decision will strain that longtime relationship, but HBO is still in bed with cable.
But it looks like they might want to see other people.
Image via YouTube screenshot