A consumer-focused approach to television programming and distribution would be to allow consumers to pick and choose which networks are included in their subscription, and to allow them to view programming across multiple devices (with or without a cable subscription). Recently, Rocky McGredy addressed the consumer frustration around this issue in his article “Piracy is the Product of Convenience.”
Programmers and distributors do not allow “choice” for consumers for a variety of business/financial reasons including the costs associated with low-viewership by high-value programming, and the fact that many networks are owned by distributors who want to keep the highly profitable subscription models just as they are—despite consumer desire and convenience. An example is HBO, which is not offered as a stand-alone network—either on television, or streaming over the web. Of course, HBO is owned by Time Warner, which recently spun off Time Warner Cable—and presumably continues friendly relationships (and longstanding contracts). How could Time Warner Cable allow HBO to bypass the cable company and sell directly to consumers? It is a seeming impossibility in the current business ecosystem—in the United States.
However, outside of the U.S., where this programming/distribution clusterf*ck does not exist, HBO has decided to experiment with a streaming-only service subscription not tied to consumers paying for cable. “HBO Nordic AB” service will be available in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland starting in mid-October. It will cost less than 10 euros a month.
The introduction of a streaming-only HBO service may be an attempt to block Netflix’s planned entry into those same countries, but it also may be a terrific test market to see if such a consumer-focused program might be imported into the U.S.
“Each market is unique, and HBO approaches each one with what we consider to believe the best business model specific to that territory,” an HBO spokesperson told Variety and delivered a glimmer of hope to consumers across the country.