HBO's Move Might Kill Cable
Stand-alone streaming could doom pricey bundling once and for all
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 16, 2014 1:12 PM CDT
This image released by HBO shows Kit Harington in a scene from "Game of Thrones."   (AP Photo/HBO, Helen Sloan)

(Newser) – HBO's announcement that it will launch some of type of stand-alone streaming service next year means that "cable companies should be very, very afraid," writes Issie Lapowsky at Wired. It's a sentiment widely shared out there, with Brian Merchant at Vice chiming in, "From where I'm sitting, it’s the death knell for traditional cable television." After all, people who hate the expensive bundles offered by cable companies will be able to cut the cord and still get high-quality shows. Other entities such as the NFL, Comedy Central, AMC, and, now, CBS, offer similar options, and HBO's entry means "there's almost no conceivable reason you'd need a cable subscription," writes Merchant. People finally will be able to pick and choose what they will pay to watch.

Skeptics say those most likely to sign up for the HBO service are probably young, tech-savvy adults who already skip cable, and thus the move won't lead to a significant jump in cord-cutters, writes Derek Thompson at the Atlantic. But even if it simply curbs cable's growth by preventing new sign-ups, "that's bad enough," he writes. The cable industry may still be "ridiculously profitable" but the "empire is shrinking" as subscriptions stagnate. "Bundling has worked," he writes. "Now it's ending. Somebody has to lose this game." Of course, cable companies also are in the business of providing Internet service, so expect them to try to boost profits on that front. In fact, at Forbes, Howard Homonoff thinks the biggest loser in all this isn't the cable industry—he figures most people will stick with cable for the foreseeable future—but Amazon, which recently signed a content deal with HBO for its Prime service.