When I first heard that Sony and HBO had teamed up to bring the network’s popular shows like “True Blood,” “The Sopranos,” “Big Love” and “Flight of the Conchords” to the PlayStation 3, I was ready to be as amped-up as I was for the MLB.TV deal.
But then I got around to reading what the deal would actually entail, and I was much less excited. For one thing, many shows will only be available on a per-episode, download-only basis, 11 months after they air on TV. Secondly, you’ll have to pay either $2 or $3 an episode.
In other words, this “deal” is largely meaningless. By the time shows hit the PSN, you’ll be able to pick up physical DVDs or Blu-ray discs of seasons that’ll cost you less money than downloading episodes a la carte. This deal screams as having been crafted in such a careful way so as not to cannibalize DVD sales or anger cable companies. HBO’s president, Henry McGee, has admitted as much, saying that the 11-month delay is designed so that people don’t cancel their current cable or satellite subscriptions.
But here’s the thing, Mr. McGee: We consumers have already canceled our TV subscriptions in droves, namely because we don’t want to shell out close to $100 a month for a bunch of channels we don’t want that cable and satellite providers force us to buy. We stream our TV shows through Netflix, Hulu and similar services. (And yes, unfortunately, some of us use torrents to download programming illegally.) And while many of us aren’t opposed to paying for our TV shows, we really have no interest in paying $3 to license a year-old TV episode we’ll only watch once, then delete from our hard drives.
What we do want, however, is something like HBO on Demand, a service that already freakin’ exists, albeit only for cable subscribers who already have an HBO subscription. I, for one, would happily pay HBO (and the NBA, Comedy Central and probably a couple of other channels) a monthly subscriber fee for the ability to stream the network’s shows directly to my PS3, whenever I’m in the mood to watch them. And while this might mean that I subscribe to the network only intermittently, binging on shows for a couple of months and then canceling, only to return months later, the money you get from me will be more than what you’re getting right now.
There are thousands, maybe millions, of folks lined up, money in hand, ready to pay to stream TV content. Now, sell it to us.