November 8, 1972 is the magic date 46 years ago that HBO launched. A lot of its early content has gone the way of the VCR discount bin, but quite a strong number of its modern content can be found on its streaming sites. HBO has changed greatly over the years as it has revolutionized the home cinematic market and been a recipient of some of the highest accolades multiple times. But on this marking of HBO’s anniversary we won’t reflect on that past but try to sort out where it is poised to go into the future.
Home Box Office is four years away from its 50th year on the airwaves. By then the pay-cable giant will look different than it does today as it did four years ago from now. The biggest immediate difference is ownership. As we are well aware HBO’s parent company Time/Warner was bought by communication conglomerate AT&T. It became a division of that new owner now known as WarnerMedia. AT&T and its chiefs were proud and vocal about having HBO as one of its crown jewels. However, in order to see it compete in the more aggressive market of the day, they stated that HBO needed to evolve.
Chief executive officer John Stankey stated that “HBO’s current content model was not profitable enough, and that the network had to produce more content (similar to that offered by streaming services such as Netflix) in order to achieve more engagement with subscribers, including short-form content oriented towards mobile devices.” and that it needed to “find a way to move beyond 35 to 40 percent penetration to have this become a much more common product.”
That sounds like some progressive change to me. We would, of course, reap the benefit of such an upscale if, and I mean IF, it did not jeopardize the level of quality that we expect just to get a higher quantity of product. There is clearly no problem in setting those goals, but can you do so without hurting the HBO brand is the question. A decision has already come down the pike to change the look of HBO when it was decided that HBO Boxing would dissolve. That leads to the question, at what cost to the consumer are you able to do make these changes? We certainly hope AT&T does not provide new content and then turn around and jack up the price too an absurd figure. It is not out of the realm of possibility.
It is also not out of the realm of possibility that some abrupt halt to the whole shebang might be in the offing. As we previously mentioned, the Department of Justice felt the ruling for the buyout was made in haste and so a determination to rescind that ruling is in consideration. I believe December 3 is the date for that case. If the ruling is overturned than all progress AT&T has made will cease leaving what in its wake, exactly? That in itself could but HBO in distress.
There are other disputes in action right now as well. There have been grumblings about AT&T’s business tactics in the whole matter and the biggest one to date just blew up when 2.5 million HBO subscribers lost the service. Dish Network, notorious for disputes, has pulled HBO/Cinemax, and its connection to HBOGo & MaxGo, from its satellite feed. Or WarnerMedia pulled it. Both sides, of course, blame each other as the instigator. As a Dish user I know it started with the price increase from $10 back up to $15, negotiations, if there ever was really any, stalled and then it was gone. Dish Network cited that HBO’s new owners were forcing their customer base to switch to DirectTV, the other satellite provider because AT&T owns it. The other side just says Dish is being stubborn. Either way, the consumer suffers.
This piece is in no way a business analysis; it is just a fan’s concern for the state of affairs. On one hand, I am, like most, excited for the expected increase to the budget that will manifest into more content for HBO but I am also concerned that HBO might lose its prestige, style & tone in the process. Here is a listing of how we have covered this news.
So, where are you headed HBO? Are you going to be alright? Are you going to be available across all outlets or only a favored few? Already we seem to see an uptick in the content quantity that HBOWatch can’t keep up with. But at what piece are we going to be able to enjoy it? Will HBONow/Go remain? Will it all crash if the DOJ reverts the acquisition in part or in full? We celebrate that you made it this far, but what does your future hold? We wait & wonder.