We love single-purpose websites, and TakeMyMoneyHbo.com is no exception: The site exists simply to beg HBO to flee the cable and satellite companies and offer a standalone Internet subscription for its shows, with visitors encouraged to enter in the precise amount of money they would pay each month to subscribe.
HBO currently offers an Internet service, HBO GO, that features streams of all of its shows, both current and cancelled. In order to access it, however, you need an existing HBO subscription through your cable provider. That's great news for those who already have HBO, but not for those trying to cut the cord.
"We pirate Game of Thrones, we use our friend's HBOGO login to watch True Blood...," the site's intro reads. "Please HBO, offer a standalone HBOGO streaming service and Take My Money!"
What follows that introduction is a submission form where you specify how much you'd pay, along with a handy button that launches Twitter so that you can tweet out that price to the attention of the HBO Twitter account.
The site has already received almost 65,000 visits in its first 12 hours, according to tweets from TakeMyMoneyHBO.com creator Jake Caputo. Developer Dominic Balasuriya wanted to know just how much visitors to the website were willing to pay for a standalone HBO GO subscription: After writing a quick script, he found that the average price was $12.30 per month.
Does that sound about right? With a recent study showing "Game of Thrones" to be the most pirated show in the world, wouldn't HBO be crazy not to at least consider all this free money that the Internet is ready to hurl upon it?
Well, not really. Here comes the bad news.
HBO is already very, very comfortable with the deal it has with the cable and satellite companies. In May Dustin Curtis flagged an interview with HBO President Eric Kessler, in which Kessler described why, in Curtis' words, "moving to internet distribution would deal a fatal blow to HBO's business."
Yes -- a fatal blow. As in, no more "Game of Thrones" fatal. Because of the subsidies and fees and the incredible amount of customer service and sales and advertising support that HBO receives from the cable companies, moving to a model where HBO skirts those companies -- and the 30 million subscribers they provide -- would be suicidal. Here's the (sad for cord-cutters!) money quote, as transcribed by Curtis:
What you don't want to do is to pursue a distribution channel over here [ed: the internet], where you think, well, let's go around the affiliate and we'll get a couple hundred thousand subs. But the promotional, and packaging support we get over here [ed: the affiliate networks], which, by the way, is the foundation of our 30 million subs and enables us to get 10 million transactions, if that dissipates, and that shrinks, then we will lose a lot of subs over here. Because with 10 million transactions, you have to generate a lot of subs every single day. You can't afford to have that machinery slow down. So we'll gain a little over here, and we'll lose a lot over here, and we think there will not be a net gain, there would be a net loss. So it's really about economics and a business issue.
Ryan Lawler at AOL Tech sister site Techcrunch draws a similar conclusion, that it's just not good business for HBO to abandon the cable behemoths. Writes Tate:
What would happen if HBO no longer had the pay TV industry's marketing team propping it up all the time? The results would be disastrous, and there's no way that HBO could make up in online volume the number of subscribers it would lose from cable. Which is why, even though some users would actually pay more for access to HBO Go without all the other cable channels, you won't see it show up as a standalone service anytime soon.
So, how much money would you pay for a standalone HBO subscription? Unless it's in the tens of millions of dollars, it might not be enough. HBO GO might not be coming to non-HBO subscribers any time soon, but at least we'll always have The Wire: The Musical.