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Time Warner CEO: Streaming HBO 'Not Ready for Prime Time'
AKA, I don't Want There to Be a Standalone HBO Option
by Karl Bode 08:24AM Friday Nov 09 2012
HBO's HBO Go broadband streaming service is currently only available to customers who not only have a cable subscription, but also only to those whose ISPs have struck an arrangement with HBO. And while Netflix says they assume that such a standalone offering is inevitable for HBO, HBO has repeatedly insisted such an offering isn't sustainable (read: we don't want to lose the huge subsidies we get from cable operators). In yet another attempt to pooh pooh the idea of a standalone HBO streaming service, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes insists that there is no standalone option because it's "just not ready for prime time":
"Given the content we're making at [Warner Bros.], the simple answer is that the concept of a subscription broadband network isn't that ready for primetime," Bewkes said on Time Warner's earnings call Wednesday...While Bewkes left the door open for Time Warner to revisit the idea of developing a direct-to-consumer broadband version of HBO, he said the company remains focused on supplying content to existing TV networks and subscription video on demand services. "I don't want to rule it out exactly," Bewkes said.
Of course what Bewkes means but can't say is that HBO standalone isn't "ready for prime time" because they simply don't want it to be. A standalone HBO streaming option would only be appealing to the TV cord cutters Bewkes likes to insist don't exist. For a supposed nonexistent and inconsequential segment of users, companies certainly spend a lot of time ensuring that cord cutters don't grow further. Time Warner and HBO will bend of course, it's just a question of when.

topics flat nest 

Volitar Prime

Utica, MI

HBO Go is nice for content, but quality is not as good.

I have HBO Go on my Xbox 360. While I appreciate the content available on it, I am disappointed with the lower quality of the image and sound when compared to watching live (or
DVR recorded) HBO HD. HBO Go is only 720p and 2 channel stereo sound (on the Xbox 360) while true HBO HD is 1080i with 5.1 sound.

Will they ever increase it to the same level as live HBO HD? I doubt it since they will want to keep bandwidth usage somewhat low, especially with some customers having to deal with bandwidth caps.

Brighton, MA

Re: HBO Go is nice for content, but quality is not as good.

they could let you choose what quality you use. Some of us don't have caps and will never have caps.



Re: HBO Go is nice for content, but quality is not as good.

said by ArrayList:

they could let you choose what quality you use. Some of us don't have caps and will never have caps.

I doubt it. Because it's not about your available bandwidth or caps, it's about their available bandwidth and how much they pay for it.

They probably want to keep a consistent quality level and using ABR to downgrade the quality when bandwidth is lower on the customer end, and keeping their bandwidth costs down.
They probably will at some point. Bandwidth is relatively cheap when you are a major company like Time Warner. The demand for higher quality streaming is probably just not that high and offering it now will have an insignificant impact on subscriber totals.
It is a stand alone service in some countries currently in Europe.


Birmingham, AL
I dont know if it depends on the device you use HBO go on or the content you're watch but i've watch HBO Go using the app on my TV (Samsung) and it was in 5.1 surround sound (was watching Game of Thrones) coming through my receiver.

North Bergen, NJ
The problem you are having is with the Xbox not HBO GO. I use it with the Roku and the video and sound is much better then the live HD channels. I never watch the live channels anymore due to the far superior quality of the video and sound on HBO GO.

Santa Monica, CA

Why it don't work

HBO, much like Google, is completely unprepared to deal with consumers directly, and they don't want to incur their wrath that will come when the streaming pipeline fails miserably. Customers aren't going to blame their ISP...

Hazelwood, MO

Re: Why it don't work

Please elaborate on your "when the streaming pipeline fails miserably" comment.

Santa Monica, CA
·Time Warner Cable

Re: Why it don't work

said by Skippy25:

Please elaborate on your "when the streaming pipeline fails miserably" comment.

It will stutter, stall, fade, pixelate, or otherwise demonstrate internet-based routing issues common to all streaming sites. And that's before the ISP issues and "neutral" protocols.

Its not that streaming video protocols and players can't be made to overcome 99.9% of these failures - but I've yet to see any sites supporting same, or players, out-of-the-box, so robustly configured, or allowing the consumer to make such settings if they were even available.


1 recommendation

Standalone hbo will probably not happen

Hbo is probably looking to sell their service through an existing service. They probably don't want to get lost in the black hole of the Internet when cable disappears. My guess is someone like amazon, apple, google or Microsoft offers them some dollars to sell their services as an add on to their existing services. My bet is on amazon. Netflix is best set up to do it, but they don't seem to show any interest in add on programming.

Amazon super prime with ESPn and hbo for 20 a month would probably get a lot of people cutting their cords and canceling Netflix.

East Amherst, NY
·Verizon FiOS

Re: Standalone hbo will probably not happen

They could provide services through a CDN or Navisite, that isn't the problem.

The problem is: DRM and direct to consumer.

1. DRM -> All those devices. That takes a lot of development $$$ and support which leads me to (2)
2. Channel - HBO since it's inception has followed the channel model. Going from someone handling your sales and customer service to a direct model puts you in competition with your channel (Comcast, TW, VZ, etc) and also now adds cost to support both a direct and a channel model. I see it unlikely until HTML5 normalizes that they go direct in the US, and their subscriber growth in the channel is impressive probably due to GO with offseason stickiness. So if they GTM it will probably be with a neutral channel partner or use an existing one to get synergies. So Netflix/Amazon are seen as competitive, so I don't see that happening FIRST.
3. TWC is starting to show it's willing to expand on endpoints, so maybe the xbox promo is a view into what's coming. The lack of codec support on XBox is a killer for hidef buffs tho. I use my Roku if I want to watch anything in hidef.

Ashburn, VA

Not Going to Happen

How would HBO be able to enter this market without damaging their existing business relationships and without cannibalizing their own established customer base through the cable/satellite TV conglomerates?

If HBO were offered as a standalone product to the TV providers, then perhaps HBO could be sold as a product directly to their subscribers. That is not the case, however, as the TV providers use clever pricing schemes to recover their costs and to make a hefty profit.

If HBO and programming like ESPN 3 were available to consumers as standalone products, it would be clearly exposed that this content is heavily subsidized by the entire TV provider's customer base.

HBO would have to sell this product at a price that would be higher than what existing cable/satellite TV subscribers would pay, or else they would risk losing customers in their bread and butter market to a service directly reliant on consumer demand.

This world we live in could be absolutely fantastic from a technological standpoint, if only those fat cats could find a way to keep their share of the pie in this painful transition to more innovative methods of delivery.

West Tenness

WILL happen eventually

It's inevitable. One day they will see how much money they are missing out on. it will take time though as the CEOs of content companies are dumber than a box of rocks. Same type of morons wanted to kill the VCR because it encouraged piracy an was going to be the end of TV and movies.
Space Elf
Mullica Hill, NJ

Re: WILL happen eventually

I loved how the MPAA hated the VCR and then the invention of home video made them more money than they could ever have imagined ever before.
[65 Arcanist]Filan(High Elf) Zone: Broadband Reports