HBO Now Doesn’t Know What It, Or Its Customers, Want

HBO, despite attempts to draw a larger consumer base via the still-new HBO Now streaming platform, seem set on alienating some of those very same new consumers. As stated in the terms of service, HBO NOW is available and designed strictly for United States residents, though numerous Canadians, European countries and Australia have circumvented the geo-locking HBO has placed on their product. At least until a few days ago, when The Sydney Morning Herald reported receiving emails from HBO warning of the potential for service to be cut off as soon as tomorrow. Rather than get payment in exchange for a service — a pretty basic concept — HBO seems to prefer receiving nothing.

From the above link, the following is an email sent to an Australian HBO Now user:

hboemail

Using a virtual private network (VPN) to trick the HBO NOW service into believing the the customer is located within the U.S. is apparently akin to pirating. If HBO is threatening to punish people who already pay for their service, it is curious to see them complain about online leaks when they take away a viable option for people to lawfully watch their shows.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Netflix, who also has strict terms of service regarding location, but is yet to actively target consumers. The streaming giant did limit the mobile — specifically Android — based geo-locking tricks, however Netflix spokesman Cliff Edwards said as long as the consumer can be verified in the correct location, they company will not block legitimate VPN usage. In an email Edwards wrote “There’s been no change to our VPN policy.” In a separate appearance, Edwards claimed “Detecting VPN usage is like playing a game of whack-a-mole.By their very nature, it’s difficult to tell how many people are bypassing geofilters.”

HBO NOW’s launch was disappointing even before this with their initial exclusive Apple partnership, but to see them go after paying customers, despite being out of the country, is shocking. If a foreign cord cutter isn’t allowed to pay for the standalone HBO programming, only one option remains and it involves the consumer getting what they want with HBO receiving zero payment.

(Image via HBO)

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Stuck in a Slump
Guest
Stuck in a Slump

This kind of crap kills me! As a US citizen serving abroad with the government, I feel we should be able to access the comforts of home to make living overseas, often in hostile countries with minimal infrastructure. Right now, I have my computer setup on our VPN to protect our information and to stream Netflix, but have to switch off the VPN for MLB.tv. This isn’t too much of a hassle, but I’ve already been denied services like Hulu because we use the VPN (so, presumably, we’d be rejected stateside as well if we were to use the VPN there).

I really don’t understand why companies don’t want my money if I can provide a legit US address for my billing information.

Eric F
Guest
Eric F

Just this weekend I had remembered hearing about HBO Now, and went to download it/use it, only to not be able to find it on my PS4 or Nexus 6. Then after going to the website I saw that it was only available on the Apple store, but that it could be watched through any browser so I thought “Fine, only watching on my computer is better than nothing.” Then you get to the fine print where it says sure you can watch on any browser, but you can only signup through Apple TV or the Apple store. Just seems completely ridiculous. Guess I’ll have to get my friend with Apple products to sign me up so I can use the browser-based service.

Adam L
Guest
Adam L

We use strong dns to use netflix from overseas, and it is very annoying to have to jump through hoops to pay a company money to use its service.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

This is well framed by you. But you are not paying for the service that you are receiving. You are paying for a service, and then altering that service.
It doesn’t seem that way to you, because you don’t want to think about it in those terms, because that doesn’t come across as down-home folksy common sense that Big Streaming just doesn’t get.
But if the service you pay specifically says you can’t use it Tibet…and you agree to that arrangement…You are not, in fact, paying to watch Netflix in Tibet. No matter how much you’re willing to twist things to fit your desired outcome.

Paul G.
Guest
Paul G.

I suspect there are legal reasons for this. Very much like how I cannot download songs in iTunes if it is not available in the US store but is available in other countries’ stores. I’m very sure iTunes wants to sell me that song but are blocked by some regulation or another.

Still it does seem odd that HBO is being so aggressive about it. Either they have more paranoid lawyers or somebody or something spooked them.

n0exit
Guest
n0exit

There are no legal reasons for this. Only financial. Multi national companies have been operating for decades now in the online world. The only reason SVOD services geo block is to try and attempt to maximise the value of local exclusive rights for their content.

In Australia, game of thrones is sold to FoxTel (I think) a pay TV company. If Australians can pay HBO and don’t have to sign up to FoxTel the value of those exclusive rights falls. So far, SVOD services are of the belief that this fall is greater than the extra benefit gained of a customer. But as exclusive rights continue to lose value (because companies like Netflix don’t care and because geoblocking is ultimately pointless) we will reach an equilibrium where it is no longer efficient to geo block.

The basic driver of this situation is inherent to copyright. Copyright is basically a monopoly right and we all know that monopolies distort markets.

Jeff in T.O.
Guest
Jeff in T.O.

KODI people…