We just got one step closer to the dream of cable a la carte with yesterday’s announcement from HBO that it will begin offering its channel streaming service to customers who do not also have a cable subscription.
Previously, the streaming option was only available to those who already had a cable subscription and had paid for the premium channel or the bundle containing it.
For years, content watchers, cable customers and consumer advocates have lobbied providers, government officials and federal regulators for the option to buy cable chances separate from packaged bundles as is currently offered. Many times, they complain, that they pay for over 100 channels yet watch just ten.
Time Warner Inc. announced this Wednesday that HBO would launch the stand-alone, online streaming version of its service next year, targeting the 10 million folks in the US with internet but no pay-television service. That could mean cord- cutters or those on a limited budget like students, low-income households or the elderly on fixed budgets.
In other words, a large untapped market of TV watchers!
“That is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped,” Richard Plepler, chairman and chief executive of HBO, said during a Time Warner investor presentation in New York. “It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO.”
However, the losing end could be those small, niche and rising channels and networks that rely on “channel surfing” to court new audiences and subscribers. Often times, they also enter into agreements to be advertised or promoted on co- channels that are part of the bundled tier they exist on. Technically, that remains an option but it is still a tough sell to get “buy in” to a niche channel one knows nothing about when trying it out cost nothing because it came automatically as a packaged deal.
Your thoughts? A la carte cable network options. Good for consumer option or bad for new network entrants?