Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

HBO Comes to the iPad, a Couple Days Early

HBO Go, the pay cable channel’s Web service, doesn’t formally launch on the iPad until Monday. But no need to wait: You can download it now at iTunes.

As advertised, the free app is a mirror of HBO’s existing broadband service: It lets the channel’s subscribers stream a very deep catalog of HBO’s shows and movies, on demand, via both Wi-Fi and wireless networks.

It will also work on Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch, as well as 20 phones running Google’s Android; it won’t work on tablets running Google’s newest Honeycomb OS, though. (Demo video from BTIG’s Rich Greenfield at the bottom of this post)

The two catches:

  • The service is available to most cable customers, with the exception of Time Warner Cable and Cablevision subscribers. Time Warner Cable says it’s working on a deal; Cablevision won’t comment.
  • It’s a very deep catalog–1,400 titles, including the complete run of great series like “The Sopranos” and “The Wire”–but it will still have gaps that could frustrate HBO’s most avid users. I’d like to try David Simon’s “Treme” again, for instance, but I can’t get last season’s episodes; just the new ones that started airing last week.

Some of you will bemoan the fact that you have to be a cable subscriber to get this–there’s no broadband-only option, a la Netflix and Hulu Plus. But that’s the point: Parent company Time Warner is completely wedded to the cable industry and wants to build as many incentives as it can to keep you there, too.

Still, this stuff is lightyears ahead of where the cable business was just a couple years ago, where paying subscribers had no way to get these shows except on their TVs, or by buying it again on DVD or iTunes.

And if you really are a dedicated cord-cutter, and a patient one, you may eventually get your way: I can imagine a scenario where HBO does offer this stuff directly to consumers, and if it happens within a few years, I won’t be completely shocked.

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