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Is HBO Warming Up to Standalone Streaming?

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It’s been pretty exhaustively talked about how HBO opening up the channel’s video content to streaming-only subscribers would be slitting their own throats with the cable companies that feed them. However, judging by comments from  HBO’s new chief Richard Plepler, the streaming subscriptions trapped in the Nordic ice may finally be melting free, at least sometime in the future — although certainly not anytime soon. Via The Wall Street Journal:

Appearing on stage at a New Republic event, Mr. Plepler was asked by a young woman who described herself as a member of the “Lena Dunham, Millennial generation” how HBO would reach people who, like many of her friends, don’t have televisions or pay-TV subscriptions but want to watch Ms. Dunham’s “Girls,” one of HBO’s hottest new shows, legally.

“We are going to get you a little raise where you work so that you can afford the product,” Mr. Plepler joked. He made clear that an unwillingness to alienate HBO’s distributors – cable and satellite operators that carry the product – would prevent the channel from going direct to consumers anytime soon. But he also acknowledged that this means HBO is missing out on some potential customers.

“We recognize that there’s a piece of the audience out there that, if they could get HBO without going through a pay package, we would get it.”

Personally, I expect that HBO’s first toe-dip into this world would probably be access to their programming back catalog, coupled with maybe time-limited ability to air new episodes of their  programming with limited to no repeat value like Real Sports and Real Time. Revenue in such a scenario would almost certainly be shared with the local cable distributor as well, possibly only offering HD feeds if you have a cable subscription. Their costs would have to have to be competitive with Netflix and they know it, and especially given that at least one in three week-one viewings of Game of Thrones is via BitTorrent, that’s a lot of revenue they’re missing out on.

So we’ll see how it goes, but I’ll be very suprised if you aren’t able to watch the last season ofThrones on your iPad at the same time as your TV. The only real question is whether the premium you’re going to have to lay out to not go through Comcast will be worth the price of admission.

Via: [The Wall Street Journal]

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