Eric Kessler, President & COO at HBO, just announced that a long-awaited feature will be going live today during his interview at D:Dive Into Media 2013. HBO Go and Max Go users with Apple products filling the home will now be able to enjoy AirPlay beaming. Straight from the man himself:
"Our long-term goal for Go is to be on all platforms and all devices. Effective today, we will be enabling AirPlay -- any device that allows users to watch on the big screen is great. You can play HBO Go on your iPhone or iPad, and then beam that to your HDTV via an Apple TV using AirPlay."
It appears that neither app has seen an update in Apple's App Store just yet, but we're guessing it's only a matter of time before both are refreshed. [Update: Looks as if both updates are now live!] Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that HBO will be on Apple TV for some time yet. Host Kara Swisher asked Kessler what the problem was in getting 'em on there. His reply? "We will get on Apple TV -- there is no problem. These things take time."
We spoke firsthand with Kessler following his interview, and he affirmed that there's no 30 percent revenue cut to worry about with Apple TV like there is for conventional apps on the App Store. It seemed that HBO simply viewed this as a lower priority now that AirPlay is a reality, and it may go a long way to explaining why so many other video apps are opting for AirPlay inclusion rather than focusing efforts on a dedicated Apple TV app.
Pivoting from there, Swisher asked why HBO wouldn't cave to vocal critics online and offer HBO Go / Max Go to those who don't subscribe to HBO via pay-TV. According to him, "it's about economics." Kessler confessed that while this may change in the future, "the economics today don't support this." He admitted that HBO has done extensive research to see whether or not people actually would pay a meaningful sum of money for access to HBO's content outside of a pay-TV package, and evidently, the numbers just don't add up.
Of course, there's a ton of behind-the-scenes variables in play when thinking about distribution agreements with monolithic cable providers, and it's clear from his interview that the particulars are far more complex than most people realize. In other words, HBO would suffer from implications related to breaking its content out of a pay-TV model -- it's quite possible that there's simply no way to charge enough for à la carte HBO access to make up for the negative economic impact that would happen should that card be played. Or, that the price it'd have to charge would be so obscene, that none of the people clamoring for it would actually open up their wallets and make good.
In closing, Kessler confessed that some 80 percent of all HBO viewing happens on the traditional television, while on-demand usage takes up another 16 percent. In other words, HBO Go viewing makes up just "two to three percent" of overall usage. Granted, he noted that even HBO On Demand usage was fairly flat for the service's first three years, but began to ramp up after more and more channels began to offer on-demand services. So, for those demanding à la carte access to the HBO Go app -- you might want to wait for app usage to rise above the single digits. The truth is, that figure is just too small right now to register on the radar of most executives.
We'll be reporting live from D:Dive Into Media as it continues on February 11-12. You can follow our coverage by using the "dmedia2013" tag.