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HBO Claims It Will Never Cut the Funiculus Umbilicalis

By Seth Freilich | Industry | November 30, 2011 |

By Seth Freilich | Industry | November 30, 2011 |

Funiculus umbilicalis. The umbilical cord, the birth cord, the little tube of arteries and veins that provides precious nourishment to a developing placental mammalian fetus. Once the youg baby is born, of course, that cord is removed, be it by cutting it, by eating it (yes, some mammal mothers separate the cord by eating it) or by letting it naturally dry up and break apart. At that point, the young mammal must nourish itself.

In the world of TV viewership, of course, the metaphorical umbilical cord takes several forms — over-the-air free broadcasts, coaxial cable or fiberoptic cable subscriptions, or satellite packages — but the end result it to get TV programming pumped into your living room. But we’re getting ever closer to the day when that umbilical cord can be cut. Thanks to the proliferation of streaming through services like iTunes, Netflix, Amazon and individual station/network sites and applications, folks are relying less and less on their “old fashioned” means of television consumption. In fact, if it were not for sports, news and certain other live events programming, I suspect a greater number of folks would have already unplugged their TVs from any cable or satellite subscriber, and simply hooked it up to their Roku, computer, PS3, etc.

Anyway, HBO has had its HBO GO application out for a while now for iPhones and iPads, and it recently added it to the Roku, and it’s fucking fantastic. Every episode of every HBO is available on demand, instantly and at a high quality. It’s amazing. The catch, of course, is that the application is only available to HBO subscribers. And HBO’s Co-President, Eric Kessler, has apparently come out to say that, despite speculation to the contrary, HBO has no intention of ever making this service available to non-subscribers. Ever.

HBO’s strategy remains based on persuading already strapped consumers to add more to their cable bill while also forgoing so-called ‘cord cutters’ altogether. Kessler is undaunted, saying HBO regards cord cutting as a temporary phenomenon that will go away once the larger economy improves. He also says that HBO will flourish under its current model thanks to its star power (its latest coup is getting The Social Network’s Aaron Sorkin to pen a series) and because its partnership with cable companies allow it to avoid transaction costs like billing.

For a company that got it so right, relatively quickly, with the HBO GO app, read this line again: “HBO regards cord cutting as a temporary phenomenon that will go away once th elarger economy improves.”

That’s fucking idiotic.

Sure, some people have probably “cut the cord” because of money, and those people may come back when their financial situation improves. But over time, the proliferation, ease and quality of other distrubtion channels is only going to increase. There is a huge market of people who do not subscribe to HBO and will never subscribe to HBO, for many reasons, but who would readily throw down ten bucks a month to have the HBO GO library available to them. Are we really to be believe that HBO will never open that avenue of revenue?

I’m calling bullshit on Kessler. Complete and utter bullshit. I suspect this statement is made more to appease its various distribution partners, and to give it a leg up on future negotiating. Either that, or Kessler really just doesn’t get it. But I guarantee there will come a day, sooner rather than later, when HBO will do exactly what it’s currently saying it will never do. And I hope someone holds Kessler accountable for making this idiotic claim to the contrary.

(Source: News for TV Majors)

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Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.