Soon You’ll Be Able to Stream HBO (Without Stealing Your Friend’s Password)

Want to be able to stream HBO shows without subscribing via a cable provider? By next year, you’ll be able to.

The Time-Warner owned network announced today that in 2015 they will be the first premium cable provider to allow consumers to sign up for its streaming service, HBO Go, independently of them becoming cable subscribers first.

The move comes as no major surprise– HBO has been a leader in making its content available online to subscribers, offering up the HBO Go service on a number of media devices, including gaming consoles, mobile phones, tablets, and smart TVs.

While HBO will be the first to explore this new revenue stream, you can bet that other major premium providers (Viacom, Showtime, A&E to name a few) will be watching this closely to see if it would be worthwhile for them, as well (though I can’t see how it wouldn’t be). From a operations standpoint, this seems like a no-brainer: HBO (and others) already operate mobile-based streaming services, so there’s relatively little additional support (besides maybe increased bandwidth) necessary to sell subscriptions to online content directly.

Additionally, especially in the case of Showtime, HBO, etc, there are no advertisers to contend with. Whenever broadcast content is made available online, networks need to either negotiate with legacy advertisers to sponsor both aired and streamed versions; or, if necessary, recruit separate ad dollars for each– often, with much lower returns on online vs. broadcast. Without commercials (except for their own), premium networks have no overwhelming advantage to stick with cable TV only, since subscription fees are the major revenue source.

I will be interested to see, however, if cable providers have any negative response to this. “Cord-cutting” is already cutting into their profits– and giving people an added incentive to do so could hurt them even further. However, I’m not really certain that anyone would entirely ditch pay TV just because they could now get HBO Go online; and, even in those limited cases, cable providers are supplying the Internet, too– so one could argue they don’t really lose out on anything.

There is no word yet on how much HBO Go streaming will cost, but expect more news on that later this year. For now, does this announcement make you want to consider dropping cable TV? How much would you be willing to pay for shows like Game of Thrones? Let me know below!

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