Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 5:51 pm.
HBO Go For Xbox A No-Go For Comcast, Time Warner Cable Customers
HBO Go — plus MLB.TV and Comcast’s Xfinity app — launched today for Microsoft’s Xbox 360, adding more entertainment utility to tens of millions of Xboxes. As Microsoft tries to expand the Xbox beyond gaming — an important showdown on the horizon with Apple and perhaps Google — this is another positive, incremental step.
But don’t plan on using HBO’s app if you’re a customer of the two biggest U.S. cable companies, Comcast or Time Warner Cable — 34 million subscribers, combined.
HBO, still married to the cable industry, requires you to sign in/”authenticate” through your cable/satellite/telco TV provider, which verifies that you’re an HBO subscriber, before streaming any videos. But Comcast and Time Warner Cable are not on Microsoft’s list that will support HBO Go for Xbox. (Neither supports HBO Go on the Roku box, either.)
- In Comcast’s case, it appears you can sign in and watch HBO shows using the new Xfinity app for Xbox, just not the official HBO Go app. So for Comcast, this appears to be a case of wanting to “own the customer” vs. any particular objection to watching HBO shows on your Xbox.
- In Time Warner Cable’s case… Perhaps it’s trying to build its own app and it’s taking a long time? Perhaps its relationship with HBO — owned by Time Warner, the former parent company for Time Warner Cable — is still weird? (TWC subs only recently got access to HBO Go for the first time, and HBO channels were recently added to the TWC iPad app.) Or maybe it’s delusional enough to still think that preventing people from watching non-TWC video on their TV is a smart strategy?
The real losers, of course, are the subscribers — you and me. This silliness about “owning the entire customer experience” is just not productive or sustainable for the long-term. Maybe most of the same shows are available from both sources, but as long as we’re still paying for cable TV, why not give us the choice to pick which interface we want?
The real long-term, big-picture value of a cable provider is the bandwidth they can provide for video, Internet, and whatever else. Anyone can make videos, design interfaces, and build gadgets to watch it all on. Eventually, some company may even cobble together a web-based TV service with enough channels to be competitive with cable. But no one is going to dig up streets across the country and build broadband pipes into living rooms. Even Google isn’t that crazy.
Anyway: More short-term, selfish thinking by the cable giants. But that’s hardly news.
And, respect to the cable/satellite/telco companies that aren’t dinosaurs: “AT&T, Bend Broadband, Blue Ridge Communications, Cablevision, Charter, Cox, Directv, Dish, Grande Communications, HTC Digital Cable, Massillon Cable/Clear Picture, Mediacom, Midcontinent Communications, RCN, Suddenlink, Verizon, and Wow”.
Disclosure: I have previously served as a consultant to Microsoft’s interactive entertainment business.