I'm a huge fan of HBO shows including The Sopranos, Deadwood, and Rome, so it was great to hear that HBO will be offering digital downloads of movies and TV shows. Michael from DVD Dossier has the inside scoop on the HBO on Broadband launch: HBO to Go.
There are three requirements to be part of the test, and I qualify for none of them at this time: (1) be a Time Warner cable subscriber; (2) subscribe to HBO (I cancelled after the Sopranos ended); and (3) live in Wisconsin.
HBO on Broadband offers unlimited downloads of HBO shows and movies and has the largest collection of HBO programing available from any source. It gives users the freedom to enjoy HBO whenever they want and wherever they go... HBO subscribers can download and watch as much as they like as often as they like, with no per-program fees or additional charges. If you have a PC laptop, you can take the shows with you and watch anywhere you go (although programs can not be transferred to an iPod, Zune or other portable device nor burned to a DVD).
So what does this mean for Netflix? If HBO, Showtime, and the studios are all providing their content online, it will be hard for Netflix (or Blockbuster) to compete with free or ad-supported services. HBO requires customers to be a subscriber, so Netflix still has the opportunity to provide access to HBO content to non-subscribers. NBC is now offering free access to shows at Hulu, and they were 40% of Apple's digital TV downloads. How will companies charge is content is free?
In related news, Time Warner is considering charging customers for bandwidth. Let's see.. Offer free movies and TV shows, but charge for bandwidth. BRILLIANT!
Michael worked on the project and has more details on his blog, DVD Dossier.