Sorry Sony, HBO's Still Beholden to Cable

By  |  Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 5:25 pm

When content providers wade into digital distribution, there’s always a catch.

In the case of HBO bringing its hit shows to Sony’s Playstation 3 — starting with True Blood at a date unannounced — that catch is an 11-month delay between cable broadcast and console download. The $2.99 price tag also stings, considering that the Playstation Network’s other on-demand shows cost a dollar each. At least iTunes and Amazon get the same pricing.

Still, the irony is rich in Dow Jones’ report on the story. “Networks like HBO can be beholden to the cable and satellite companies, or they can play wherever the consumers play,” Sony Playstation chief executive Jack Tretton proclaims, as if to ignore the time-delay issue. If there was any doubt that HBO is protecting its relationship with subscription TV providers, HBO’s home entertainment president Henry McGee erases it: The 11-month lag, he explains, is meant to discourage people from dropping their cable and satellite packages.

Maybe that’ll work, but it won’t get me to sign up for cable again. A time-delayed content agreement is better than no content at all, and if I stick to three or four HBO series per year, the pricing works out in my favor. Through cable, HBO is $14 per month. Assuming three show downloads on PS3 with 15 episodes per season at $3, divide by 12 and the monthly cost is $11.25 per month. It’ll just take a little patience to get there.

Add HBO to the PS3’s existing video choices, which include Netflix,, on-demand video and the free legacy version of PlayOn, and the game console becomes a formidable cable alternative.

Just don’t tell HBO.


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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Big Dan Says:

    I view this as content providers just wanting to assert their control and maximuize profits in the short term. In recent years HBO has become better though I haven’t subscribed since the Soporanos ended but years back I remember HBO repeating “The Coneheads” movie over and over again you were paying $7-8/mo at the time for crap.

    I think content providers, HBO included have to accept the fact that the internet has greatly changed people’s TV viewing habits and that people want to watch what they want when they want and for the most part right now they can. Any provider who doesn’t get get with the program and provide an on-demand online subscription model will go the way of the dodo.

    That being said what about a simple PIN based system? Your monthly cable bill comes with a PIN for HBO subscribers to allow them to watch online for free or even a nominal fee.

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