HBO is looking to take on Netflix for the title of king of on-demand entertainment with its newly announced HBO Go service: It will make streaming content available through “all major cable systems,” mobile devices including the iPad, cellphones, and more (at no extra cost to HBO subscribers!). The new service is expected to be available in six months.
In February, HBO launched HBO Go with Verizon.
HBO Go poses three major problems for Netflix, which has expanded from what was essentially an online DVD rental store into a pretty formidable multi-platform digital distributor. Problem one: HBO is a well-known brand that will now be able to offer quite a bit of content across various platforms at no additional charge to an existent customer base.
Problem two: HBO came prepared for the new mediascape. About 15 years ago,. HBO began to shift its attention from a primary role as a first-run movie channel punctuated with Wimbledon coverage and shows about Fraggles into a venue for quality original programming, including sexy sex shows about the sex lives of sexy Cajun vampires, sexy violent inmates, and sexy Mark Wahlberg. To be sure, Netflix would love to continue to offer HBO programming, and it will be a major check against them if they can’t.
And problem three: HBO has exclusive cable and Internet rights to productions from Warner Brothers, Twentieth Century Fox, and Universal Pictures. That’s The Matrix, The Simpsons, and Jurassic Park right there.
(There is no official word on what, if any, content sharing HBO may offer Netflix)
But not to be outdone, Netflix recently agreed to pay the Epix cable channel (which I’ve never heard of before this–have you?) nearly a billion dollars over five years for the online distribution rights to films from Paramount, Lions Gate and MGM (they already have a separate deal with Walt Disney and Sony). So, if you are the kind of person who can’t get enough of The Love Guru, Employee of the Month, and Josie and the Pussycats, respectively, the choice is obvious.