With the release of its HBO Now app last year, HBO became the first cable network to dive headfirst into the “apps as TV” concept. The standalone app let you order HBO a la carte for $15 a month — no cable package required.
Now HBO has given another indication that it wants to push people toward its apps, announcing that it will release its new series, “Animals,” one day early on both HBO Now and HBO Go (HBO’s other streaming app that is tied to a cable subscription).
“The series premiere will be available to stream [on the apps] Thursday, Feb. 4, with subsequent episodes available to stream the following Thursdays ahead of their Friday night debuts on HBO,” the company writes, according to Exstreamist. “HBO’s linear subscribers will also be able to watch the series one day early each week via HBO On Demand.”
While the fine print says you can still watch the shows on your TV on-demand, the emphasis HBO puts is on the apps, and the initiative is clearly designed to entice people toward them, and away from the idea of a show playing at a specific time.
HBO’s CEO, Richard Plepler, has said that HBO wants to become “ecosystem agnostic.” That means having an HBO app live wherever you are: your computer, phone, tablet, smart TV, Apple TV, Roku, and so on. What it doesn’t mean is having HBO tied to your cable subscription.
One motivating factor is likely that parts of HBO’s brand seem to hurt from their association with expensive cable packages. HBO’s hit show “Game of Thrones” has been the most pirated show in the world for four straight years. Last year, the show had more than twice the number of downloads on BitTorrent as its closest competitor, “The Walking Dead.” The thinking is that many of these pirates don’t want to pay the high price for a cable package, but perhaps would pay for HBO alone. If this is the case, it makes sense for HBO to try and raise the profile of its apps, particularly HBO Now, hopefully turning potential pirates into paying customers.
A source familiar with the matter says there’s a possibility this type of release schedule could continue, but that there are no immediate plans to shift the bulk of the catalogue this way.
Here is the trailer for “Animals”: