Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dear HBO

Hi, I love you HBO.
I just wanted to get that out there, because you were a part of my life when I was growing up and though I haven't seen you in years, I have seen a lot of the things you've made. I saw so many movies when I was growing up thanks to you. Movies that helped define my tastes and my interests. I remember when we got our first HBO viewing guide in the mail, and I remember my family preparing to see the new premiere movie every week. Even if we had seen them in the theatre months earlier, knowing they were coming to our TV screen thanks to you was exciting. Chariots of Fire. Terms of Endearment. Platoon. Star Wars. Quest for Fire. Never Say Never Again. The Road Warrior. Splash. Beverly Hills Cop. Predator. I remember watching them for the first time or revisiting an enjoyable film again all thanks to you. That intro where the HBO logo appears and the viewer is sucked into the side of the O and then the inside of the O becomes the screen where the movie is about to play, I remember seeing that for the first time and getting as excited to watch a film as I might sitting the front row of a theatre and dabbing popcorn into my mouth.

And because of you I saw a lot of weird indie films, TV series, and original programs that weren't available on regular broadcast television. The Hitchhiker. Encyclopedia Brown. Not Necessarily the News. Dream On. Fraggle Rock. Kids in the Hall. Tales from the Crypt. Braingames! Oh man, I miss Braingames! Those shows were all awesome!

Now, you might notice all of my cherished films and shows all come from a certain era: the 80s. That's because in the 90s we had to drop HBO from our cable plan. In fact, things were so tough that we didn't even have cable at all for a few years, but when we got it again HBO wasn't an option because it was just too expensive. And hey, I was a kid and my main job was attending school, so any vote I had was null and void anyway. But now I'm an adult. I pay my own bills and I could get HBO too. Except, it's too expensive.

See, it's only expensive because I have to go through the cable company, and they'd rather sell me 300 channels I don't want for quadruple the cost of your channel before I can even get the option of spending some more money to get access to your programming. But the difference between those 300 channels and you is only twenty measly dollars. Now I spend about $15 every month to watch movies from Netflix, and they have a huge selection. In fact, they have a lot of your shows on DVD so that's probably the main reason I'm subscribed with them. I'm looking at your current programming line-up and you have about 17 shows that are under your production and I have to think, if you made your programs available online as a subscription service like Netflix you could cut out the cable company as a middleman and sell your shows directly to people like me. I would gladly pay $15 a month just to watch those 17 HBO programs, and what's really funny about that is that I probably wouldn't even watch all of them. But I would still gladly pay!

The rules for broadcasting have changed. Pirating shows is rampant as old companies refuse to adapt to the new technology and try to lock down their services, usually only to the consternation of those who want to watch and always to no avail. Once it exists, it's out there. Once you've broadcast it, it can be recorded, uploaded, downloaded, and there's nothing you can do to stop it. The guys who are going to come out on top are those who look ahead and innovate and embrace this format that future customers have already embraced and know inside and out. In fact, I can watch any of your currently broadcast shows whenever I want for free.

And yet, I am still willing to pay you $15 a month to watch your shows! Because I want you to succeed, and I want you to keep making shows that are awesome. I'm just not willing to pay my cable company the $60 a month admission for the privilege of paying you $15 a month to watch those shows on a timetable.

Now, maybe you have some deal with the cable companies that's more lucrative for you to stay where you are, and that's cool. Business is business, right? But, as long as you're locked into a relationship with some big jerk who keeps trying to dig deeper into the rest of our wallets, I and a lot of other people have $15 set aside just for you every month that you're not getting.

At some point you have to start wondering between the options of using a middleman or reaching your customers directly: which business is more lucrative?