HBO Taunts Cable Companies with Apple TV Deal

By Karen Fratti Comment

Mayweather-Pacquiao1HBO finally announced the official launch date for its OTT streaming service yesterday  — April 12 — and that it will be exclusively available on Apple TV.It’s a power play for HBO and a last ditch effort for Apple TV, it seems, which will even lower the price from $99 to $69 to get people to buy them.

Our peers are on the fence about it. You either love this idea or hate this idea, depending on your relationship with Apple TV.

Peter Kafka over at Recode says it was Richard Plepler, HBO’s CEO, way of telling the cable companies to get their things order:

Here’s the carrot part: [Plepler says], “Nobody is doing us any favors launching an HBO Now over-the-top product in their broadband-only services but instead choosing to enhance their own business … we’re trying to make the logical argument that this is an additive proposition.” And here’s the stick: “Now — if you think we’re going to get stuck at the door and not be able to have maximum flexibility in growing our brand — that, I’m afraid, is not a tenable proposition either.”

It’s a “good standoff,” Kafka concludes, and I think he maybe right. PC Mag sees it differently, though.

Sticks have eclipsed Apple TV-sized media hubs in price and convenience…Even among media hubs, the new price of the Apple TV is about the same as the excellent 1.5-year-old Roku 2, and while the Amazon Fire TV is a full $100, you can get it for half as much with a three-month subscription to Sling TV. So, $69 for a three-year-old media hub just isn’t that enticing anymore. HBO NOW is a big deal for Apple TV, but unless you’re a Game of Thrones fanatic it’s hardly a must-have feature, and it will probably hit non-Apple devices by the end of the summer anyway.

HBO will have to win that stand-off with the cable companies before it has any widespread success. Unless both HBO’s OTT and Apple TV were already doomed. The exclusivity deal will last for three months. Given that consumer reports like CNET vote for the Roku 3 as their top streaming device, it’s better as a strategic move than any real attempt to gather users, though good numbers there would be nice to see, too.