Is HBO Now worth the hype?
This past week, network giant, HBO finally released their standalone video streaming service, HBO Now. The service is a step up from HBO GO, which gave customers of the premium cable channel the ability to stream movies and television on demand complimentary – included with their normal subscriptions. HBO Now picks up the slack left my HBO GO, specifically in the area of live streaming programs. Where “GO” is a compliment to the premium channel subscription, “Now” is an autonomous subscription service that moves the intended platform from cable boxes to computers, which indicates a potential major shift in the future of media distribution.
HBO Now pioneers into the future of television, however not without a cost. A subscription to “Now” runs for $14.99 a month, which is a comparatively high price tag in relation to other similar services such as Netflix ($8.99 per month). What “Now” promises to deliver in exchange for a fairly high subscription fee is live Internet video streaming, with a reduced likelihood of crashes caused by capacity issues. Additionally “Now” is a TV network’s first attempt at allowing a subscription to content, without needing to purchase an entire cable contract.
Bloomberg Business’ Joshua Brustein notes that Sunday’s trial run of the service had a lot riding on it, saying that outcry against spotty service could be massive. In order to be taken seriously, the service must be reliable. The launch of HBO Now was set to coincide with the series super-hit “Game of Thrones,” in order to simultaneously buildup the service as well as monitor the influx of live users for the premier. However, prior to the premier of the fifth season of “Game of Thrones,” four out of the season’s 10 episodes were leaked online, causing a frenzy for hardcore fans and HBO users alike. This leak may have hurt HBO as the first four episodes of “Game of Thrones” season five are currently topping piracy charts, potentially evoking a ‘why buy the cow if the milk is free’ mentality.
HBO Now relies on the awareness of its benefits to customers. This service is being sold as a convenient and easy way to avoid opting into a contract with a cable provider, however where consumers will find value in it is in the quality and amount of products available to subscribers. With competition such as Netflix- which is much cheaper with a wider selection- it is imperative that HBO Now provides value to its customers in other ways that Netflix does not. The strength of “Now” lies in the benefit of immediacy because theoretically the service will provide real-time streaming to mimic television, an area that Netflix falls short in.
With so many options for viewers to pursue (both legal and illegal), HBO Now will live or die by customer to business communication. While “Now” is still in its early stages of launch, the response from their customers will be crucial in both keeping current customers and ensuring the service is user friendly and simple. Interestingly, since much of the Feedback about HBO’s new service has been so public, there is an element of word of mouth that will define if potential customers will see value in the service or not. The Game of Thrones episode leak served to undermine the launch of HBO Now, while simultaneously created word of mouth about the show and the service. The unintentional viral publicity is a catch 22; the viral nature of the story was a building block to expanding awareness, despite giving out free access to the episodes.
HBO is aiming the revolutionize television and entertainment industry for a generation living in an increasingly digital world. Depending upon how well “Now” is received and diffused; it is possible that with large enough servers to accommodate for high trafficked premiers, this could be the future of TV.