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precarious since 1997 | by maryann johanson

HBO isn’t dying, so they think they’re winning (on the rampant pirating of Game of Thrones)

Game of Thrones

I can’t help but recall that thing that Upton Sinclair said about people not understanding something when their salaries depend on their not understanding it. For I cannot fathom how The New York Times could let this pass without comment:

LAST Sunday afternoon, some friends and I were hanging out in a local bar, talking about what we’d be doing that evening. It turned out that we all had the same plan: to watch the season premiere of “Game of Thrones.” But only one person in our group had a cable television subscription to HBO, where it is shown. The rest of us had a crafty workaround.

“It… seems like a pretty serious problem,” wrote John Herrman, a senior editor at BuzzFeed… “While our office is fairly young and not representative of HBO’s broader customer base, it is representative of a rising generation of people who 1) like watching HBO shows and 2) cannot fathom paying for them.”

I find it hard to believe that anyone working at The New York Times — or at BuzzFeed, for that matter — really believes that people who watch Game of Thrones without paying for an HBO subscription genuinely “cannot fathom paying” for it. Except that HBO is a major advertiser for the Times.

Because the real situation is that many people would pay for Game of Thrones if they could pay for just Game of Thrones. But is any single show worth the price of a cable subscription plus the premium for HBO, each and every month, even when Game of Thrones is not on? No. Of course it isn’t.

(From what I can tell from Time Warner Cable’s absurdly confusing Web site, if you want HBO in New York City, it’s gonna cost you, at a minimum, $66 per month, before taxes. It looks like the basic Sky package in the U.K. includes Sky Atlantic, which airs Game of Thrones; that will set you back £21.50 — about $35 — each month, which probably does include taxes. Cheaper, but still not cheap.)

HBO seems okay with the status quo for now. I get that HBO is afraid of pissing off the cable companies with any move that would legitimize access to popular television without requiring an actual television. But if they don’t figure this out soon, someone else will. The past is littered with companies that were smug and complacent in their current success and were completely blindsided by innovation coming up behind them…



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