8 Months Vs. 22 Seconds  

Nick Bilton weighs in on the “HBO is a slave to cable” debate. I’m actually getting sick of talking about this. There are those of us in the camp that believe HBO is foolish, and there are those who think we’re foolish for thinking HBO is foolish. There’s clearly a big disconnect here. And it boils to this:

I fully understand why HBO will not make this content available now. It’s purely a business decision. And on June 11, 2012, every piece of evidence suggests that this business decision makes sense. $12 million a month in revenue from those signing online petitions? Ha. That would not even cover the rumored budget of the first season of Game of Thrones — one show.

My point is simply that on June 11, 2013, that math is going to be a little more complicated. On June 11, 2014, it will be more complicated still. And so on.

By not acting now, and getting out in front of the situation, HBO is playing a very dangerous game. They believe they can flip the switch when they need to, but it may not be that simple. As Bilton writes:

But technology doesn’t wait. People keep finding new ways to get what they want.

It’s not about stealing. It’s about access. The cable companies currently control that access — to the point where HBO will not sell their own content for nearly a year after it has aired. But they could. I’m currently downloading the season finale of Mad Men, which aired earlier tonight. I’m (happily) paying AMC (via iTunes) for that access.

“But. But. But. HBO is premium content! It’s expensive to make!!” It doesn’t matter. You think Mad Men isn’t expensive to produce? Think again (see #12).

The only thing that matters is that over the next five years, the number of kids now entering college that are willing to pay for cable television will continue to shrink. In ten years, we’ll look back at this debate like those silly “the iPhone must add a physical keyboard” debates.

Those kids could end up paying the cable companies for Internet access (we’ll see — I’d bet on wireless), but they won’t be paying for television service. No one seems to want to admit this truth.

Cable television is going to be AOL’s dial-up business dining on the ignorance of the elderly as both sides slowly fade away.

HBO thinks they’re making the right call. And they’ve tricked plenty of others into thinking they’re making the right call. But they’re not making the right call. They’re making the wrong call disguised as the safe call.

The window to correct that mistake is ever more rapidly closing.


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