Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

HBO Go Is Coming to Apple TV. Why Isn’t Everything Coming to Apple TV?

As Bloomberg reports, sometime this year, Apple TV users will be able to watch HBO shows — if they’re already subscribing to HBO via a pay-cable provider.

In other words, HBO will port its popular HBO Go app to Apple TV, just like it has already done with Roku and Microsoft’s Xbox.

For the record, no comment from Apple. And here’s a non-comment comment from HBO: “We’ve said we would like HBO GO accessible on all preferred platforms so we are always having discussions with a variety of companies.”

Anyway, when it does come, it will be a nice extra for HBO subscribers. Because HBO Go has a much deeper catalog than you can get from the HBO on-demand service you get via cable and satellite.

But that’s about it.*

And if you want to start imagining that this is a precursor to HBO actually selling itself over the Web on an a la carte basis, well, I can’t stop you. But you’re wrong: HBO isn’t ditching the pay-TV bundle anytime soon, because it thinks that bundle works really well. And so does HBO’s owner, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes.

You can have a lot of fun arguing with the HBO guys about why they think that, when so many of us Internet geniuses are convinced they’re wrong. And that’s certainly going to come up when we talk to HBO president Eric Kessler next month at our Dive Into Media conference.

But here’s another question:  Why isn’t everyone on Apple TV right now? Or more precisely, why doesn’t Apple open its box to outside developers, the same way Roku has?

Opening up the platform to the rest of the world sure seemed to work well for the iPhone (recall that the App Store didn’t show up until the iPhone had been in the market for a year). But, right now, Apple TV has a grand total of nine outside apps (one of which comes from The Wall Street Journal, which, like this site, is owned by News Corp.).

Why hasn’t Apple let a thousand TV apps bloom? Dunno. I get the sense that Tim Cook and company are very particular about the way Apple TV apps look and work, down to the pixel. But you can be very serious about quality control and still manage to get more than nine apps on your box, if you want to.

So there has to be another reason. But maybe not a permanent one. If I had to bet, I’d say we’ll see Apple open up its TV box a whole lot sooner than HBO goes a la carte.

*Apple TV is pretty portable, so, depending on the way that HBO and the pay-TV guys handle their login/passwords, I can imagine a scenario where you bring your box to someone’s house who doesn’t have HBO, and set it up so you can watch “Girls” on their big screen. That would be nice, too.**

**It will be interesting to compare and contrast the video quality that HBO Go/Apple TV/broadband delivers versus an HD cable picture. On the cheapo set + Time Warner Cable set-up that I’ve got at home, I’ve noticed that “The Daily Show” on Hulu/Apple TV is good, but notably a bit more “computery” than the picture I get via Comedy Central’s HD feed.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work