Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Why You Can’t Watch the Best Show on HBO on HBO Go

“Hard Knocks” doesn’t have dwarves or dragons or naked (female) breasts. But it’s one of HBO’s best shows: If you love football, you know this already. If you don’t, you may be surprised to learn it’s a super-compelling, five-episode reality show that is also about the Miami Dolphins’ training camp.*

If that sales pitch convinces you, the HBO subscriber, to fire up HBO Go and check it out for yourself, then my apologies. You can’t see the show on HBO’s excellent digital service, because HBO doesn’t have the rights to show it there.

That’s because unlike nearly every original show HBO airs, “Hard Knocks” isn’t actually an HBO show.

It’s a co-production with NFL Films, and NFL Films owns the show’s digital rights, including mobile rights. And HBO Go, for the purposes of rights deals, is considered a mobile service.**

So that’s annoying. On the positive side, “Hard Knocks” appears to be the only glaring hole in the HBO Go lineup. So its absence makes you appreciate just how comprehensive the HBO digital catalog is. Digital media in general has been plagued by rights gaps, but they’re getting smaller all the time.

More good news: Even if you don’t pay for HBO, you can see the show’s first episode, online, for free. (But that’s a one-off sample, HBO confirms — you’ll need to subscribe and watch the show on a television set if you want to see the rest of the season.)

And if you’re willing to poke around YouTube, you can watch a good chunk of the series, too. Here’s the highlight of last night’s show — and perhaps the entire series: Former star receiver/current Twitter celebrity Chad Johnson getting cut, following his domestic battery arrest.

*Alternate description, via Bloomberg’s Keenan Mayo: “The best business show on TV.” I’m not sure about that. But it is pretty great.

** Calling HBO Go a mobile service makes sense, of course, because it works on iOS and Android devices. But it also works on any machine with a laptop, which points out, yet again, how the legal definition of “mobile” is becoming less and less useful.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik