As a millennial, let me just say right away that I’ve been waiting for HBO to launch a standalone streaming service for quite some time, and I’m so happy that in April, they finally did. I’ve watched the creeping death of cable TV with a big smile on my face, living in my cordless wi-fi world of Adblock Plus. As PBS Newshour correspondent Jeff Greenfield so rightly put it in a March report covering the online media boom, “Younger viewers, so-called millennials form a growing class of cord-nevers, rejecting the cost of a monthly cable bill, they’ve turned instead to broadband, high-speed internet connections, and a range of streaming video services to watch what they want, where they want, when they want.” According to TechHive, 1 in 4 millennials have cut the cord or never had cable to begin with.
Those who want access to HBO without having to buy cable can now pay $14.99 a month through their Apple subscription, with the promise of more platform options to stream on the way, including Android and Chromecast. Subscribers have access to current HBO shows such as True Detective, as well as past productions such as The Sopranos. In the meantime, here is some advice for HBO on how to keep up with the competition of online content providers already in place:
1. Please start keeping track of which movies I’m watching and what shows I’m bingeing my way through! Netflix does, and they’re great at it. Right now I’m in the middle of watching Boardwalk Empire for the first time, and I’ve already accidentally skipped an episode! Every time I log in, I have to click around the main page to find the show, then click back to the first season since it always displays the last season, then click on the right episode, often having to click yet again to pause the episode (that automatically starts playing) while I read the synopsis to figure out if it’s the right episode to begin with. That’s like four clicks! In that time your average millennial has deposited a check with their phone, tweeted their frustration and illegally downloaded all the seasons just to avoid the hassle completely. A simple tab on the top of the main page or either side to keep track of what users are watching would be nice.
2. Synopses. The definition of a synopsis according to Merriam-Webster is: a short description of the most important information about something: a summary or outline. HBO has great synopses for each show, series and individual episodes. The only problem is, when I’m logged in and browsing all the content as I try to decide what to watch, nothing happens when I hover over each show with my mouse. I have to click on the show, pause the episode and read what it’s about instead of just hovering over the thumbnail. In a perfect world, each synopsis would pop up as I hover my mouse while browsing through the entertainment collection, spellbinding me with words, so I don’t have to waste more precious clicks as I try to glean the information I need. You’d be surprised what a millennial can do in just two clicks…
3. Hey, HBO…How about ten bucks? Come on. You know the only reason you are getting away with charging fifteen bucks a month, an amount that’s still not even close to most hourly minimum wages in the country, is because you have Game of Thrones. It has 42 Emmy Award Nominations to date and is the most illegally downloaded show in the world. HBO doesn’t even care about the pirating because of all the buzz and promotion it’s ended up doing for their most watched show ever. But guess what? You can only count on that for three more seasons, HBO, and then what? Hulu charges $7.99 a month, and for an additional $8.99 you can tack on Showtime. Netflix starts at $7.99, so if you’re charging more than all the other online content providers, shouldn’t you be providing more content?
All I’m saying is, it’s a bit like seeing the other lemonade stands across the street in the morning and then setting up shop at noon and almost doubling the price of your lemonade. “Oh, but our lemonade tastes much better,” HBO might say, which many consumers may agree with. Also, most current streaming companies can’t beat their amount of original programming, even if content is slow to grow. It may be sweet and delicious, and even arguably better than most other lemonades on the block, but what happens when you drink it all?
Netflix has had immense success with Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, and doesn’t seem to be slowing in their desire to produce original shows. But to be fair, they do upload a lot of old garbage movies better suited for a yard sale. Cool, Netflix, you’re adding Flubber this week? I think I’ll pass…Besides, I’m pretty sure my mom still has it on VHS in the garage.
And yes, although Hulu gives you access to network TV the day after the shows air, it’s mostly a big fat stew of reality TV garbage, and they still make you watch commercials. However, people who love Bachelor in Paradise might not be the personality types drawn to The Wire.
Still, HBO does much of the same, showing movies that have been out for months, some of which are awful. (A Million Ways to Die in the West? Yikes.) They have Vice, a few cool documentaries and some great shows that are worth the market rate – but fifteen bucks? C’mon now.
Just give it some thought, HBO. Once we settle who’s on the Iron Throne once and for all, you may have to worry about The Rains of Cancellation playing loudly through your halls. The Internet has opened the possibilities for a vast number of creative entrepreneurs to share their project ideas, Kickstarter campaigns and scripts, waiting for the chance to produce content for a provider like HBO. Just remember, winter is coming. And when it’s here, I hope I’m not out of shows to binge.
Besides, all it would take for you to fix all this is a few clicks, right?