updated 11:45 am EST, Mon January 21, 2008
HBO on Broadband
HBO on Monday said it would take tentative steps into online video with HBO on Broadband, a new service designed to help timeshift the company's TV programming. The feature will only be available for Time Warner Cable customers subscribed to the premium channel but will allow them to watch away from a TV without resorting to illegal copies or waiting for DVD releases. Users will both be able to download and watch roughly 400 hours' worth of HBO's monthly content for up to four weeks after the download takes place. In a unique approach, however, the service will stream shows live for those who want to catch a series as it appears.
The service is free for those existing subscribers but will require restrictions to protect HBO's income stream from TV providers, many of whom charge extra for the channel as part of deluxe packages. HBO is using Windows Media copy protection for the downloadable shows and explains that none of the shows will be transferrable to portable media players for later viewing. However, HBO considers the service a trial and expects to distribute copies of the needed software for its Broadband service first to Green Bay and Milwaukee customers of Time Warner. Expansion plans have not been revealed but are anticipated to focus on the larger cable network if successful.
Despite the restrictions, the unveiling represents a minor concession from the studio, which has typically declined to make its shows available through iTunes, the Xbox Live Video Marketplace, and other services that allow users to pay for downloads or streams of shows.