HBO Hints You Might Be Paying Cable Company For Standalone HBO Go

It’s been more than a month since HBO confirmed its long-awaited plans to launch an online-only version of the premium TV network that wouldn’t require a cable subscription. While there are still no real details about exactly what customers are getting or how much they want to pay, it does look like you’ll be ordering the service through the same cable company you’re trying to get away from.

Last week, HBO CEO Richard Plepler explained during a discussion at the Paley Center for Media that he doesn’t believe the existence of a standalone version of HBO would not cannibalize its pay-TV business, figuring there are between 10 to 15 million broadband-only consumers who would sign up for the service. Hopefully, that’s an indication that the service’s price point will be reasonable.

More importantly, Plepler pish-poshed the notion that the streaming-only service would hurt the cable companies that currently make upwards of $15/month for HBO.

“Who controls the broadband pipes in the U.S.? Our distributors,” he explained. “There is gold in the hills, lets go get it together … its your money too.”

Perhaps we’re reading too much into this, but the only way the cable companies could see “gold in the hills” of a standalone HBO Go is if they were getting a piece of the pie too.

We’ve theorized in the past that this would be the path of least resistance for HBO, as it would allow the cable companies to continue making money off HBO subscriptions and let HBO sell a product without having to handle all the customer service costs and problems that come with running a consumer-facing operation.

If that’s the case, then there’s the concern that the standalone HBO service might be available only through cable operators willing to sell it. Hopefully, HBO creates a work-around so that consumers aren’t held hostage to the endless negotiation standoffs between cable operators and content companies.

Of course, this is all speculation, as we wait impatiently for HBO to reveal concrete details about the upcoming service, and whether or not competitors like Starz and Showtime will follow HBO’s lead.

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