HBO is finally "examining" putting its content onto the web … while many may jeer "Hey, about time," for HBO this is a more complicated Gordian Knot that it might seem.  And hey, it’s not like other major media companies all have well thought-out, coherent New Media strategies, either – especially now that it looks like News Corp’s much hyped MySpace purchase is turning into a white elephant.  PaidContent and BizWeek weigh in on this

The site design for HBO has always been gorgeous – and the stuff they offer, like the Tarot game for Carnevale, was great and I wish they’d do more of it.

However – one of the problems is that the I dunno if this is in line with the core marketing demo for HBO programming – most of the people who watch HBO do so in lieu of going out to the movies (or surfing the web). They have to be very careful not to give away for free that which they are charging for on the sat and cable distribution networks they’ve slaved so hard and so long to establish.   One of the closely guarded secrets of HBO is that they believe they are programming for the urban black male – thus the HBO Sports (boxing, Inside the NFL), and fare such as The Wire and The Sopranos and Oz, and documentaries like Taxicab Confessions and When the Levees Broke.  This is a pretty demanding, cutting-edge audience – and this content reflects that "pushing the envelope" sensibility.  It is also thought-provoking and some of the best TV ever aired. 

The HBO content that they’ve developed over the years represents some of the best art, and some of my all-time favorite moments – true cultural touchstones…
…but any jackass can see now that traditional TV distrib models are crumbling like sandcastles at high tide, and they better start making the move now, lest they get totally swamped.  A good starting place would beto use the web as a sort of "minor leagues" where content that they want to play with but don’t yet want to commit to, gets a chance to find its legs and maybe move up to the majors …?

Here’s a snip:

An HBO spokesman told BW: “We’re examining various distribution
[possibilities], including broadband platforms, but have yet to
determine which is the best model for our business. … We’re having
conversations with cable affiliates as well as all of our distribution
partners, and together we will explore all of our opportunities in that

— Starz, with its Vongo download service, is offered up as a
possible case for HBO to study; the suggestion is that Starz suffered
by going out on its own and that its talking to cable operators now.
But HBO’s production of original signature content makes it a different

— HBO has already ventured into the mobile video marketplace,
delivering full-length shows through Cingular for $4.99 a month, more
of an experiment and a publicity pop than anything.

My suggestion: let the audience start linking in and out of the discussion boards, using trackbacks and pings and all this new Web 2.0 functionality.  I’d like to see The Sopranos open up and integrate
Google Mapping into all its locations – or the same thing with The Wire or, hell, with that Hacking Democracy documentary Open up a new front – one that isn’t just marketing for the shows – but one in which the audience is invited in to start contributing more than just a comment or flame now & again.  The top-down info flow is on the wane…

Problem is – HBO and the corporate daddy, Time Warner are still making buttloads of cash by selling the DVDs of their series.  Putting their content out on the web to be pirated is just begging for the hackerazzi to pirate it even worse than it is now.

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