Monday, January 21, 2008

hbo joins the list of bad ways to do internet video

HBO is going to let subscribers in Green Bay download videos via the tubes (this is well timed, as a steady supply of Entourage may be the only way for them to cope with the Packers strange play calling in the NFC championship game). This announcement comes in the wake of iTune's, NBC's, Amazon,'s and Netflix's similarly misguided attempts.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to see video-over-net approaches, but let's think about this for a moment. What are the common problems with these systems? They're paying big money to host and serve content that is already on the web. Worse, they're putting on the web in formats less useful than the content that is already there, ignoring platforms, and generally being less useful than the problems they're trying to combat.

Which makes you wonder, if HBO really wanted to either a) give people additional reasons to subscribe to HBO or b) get people to pay them more, why not just offer a BitTorrent "Get Out of Jail for Free" plan? If you are an HBO customer -- or pay them extra -- they grant you permission to download and seed HBO content. How cool would that be? They get some of us to pay for bits already hosted on the web. They don't have to build fancy players and search engines, although they could leverage some of the cool ones that have been built. Even better, they would spur development in legal file sharing, meaning more people would have the chance to pay them for bits they don't have to host or deliver.

And, they'd be able to do all of this without changing their legal options towards those who aren't HBO customers. Remember, the data is already out there. This would allow them to monetize some of it, rather than none of it. Plus, they open up a legal, cross platform way to access their content, including people all over the world who otherwise wouldn't be able to subscribe to HBO. Seems obvious, and I've long used HBO as the exemplar of a company that could make this move.

Pity they chose the expensive route.


Jonathan Bishop said...

Good idea, but there are issues of quality control, moral rights, and compensation in this. They might need their own bit-torrent client to make it work so they can impose/ecourage some quality standards, and track distribution for royalty payments to the original artists.

The basic idea of using a better distribution technology than straight download, and distributing the distribution load is probably sound however. Not to mention, the one off revenue benefit of a paid amnesty, but is that idea a sustainable revenue model?

cory ondrejka said...

Quality control you handle by running your own tracker. Why would it be one-time revenue? I would make it a monthly fee to have amnesty until the end of the month.