‘HBO NOW’ Announced Disappointing Subscriber Count: Here’s Why

HBO NOW was expected to be a massive game-changer for the cable industry, at least in the “death blow” sense. By having one of the most highly valued channels “go rogue” and sell direct to the consumer, the death knell for traditional cable was near.

While it still may very well be — cord cutting is putting a dent into cable providers’ revenue streams, according to the Wall Street Journal — the independence of Home Box Office through its HBO NOW standalone app has nothing to do with it.

That much became immediately clear earlier in the week when execs with the company tried painting a happy face on their subscriber numbers. Business Insider reports that there are only 800,000 paying HBO NOW subscribers, a number that was disappointing to say the least when you consider how long the cable channel has been a major player in the TV arena.

Stack it up against companies like Netflix (75 million subscribers) or Hulu (9 million subscribers) or even analysts’ predictions of as much as 2 million, and the number cannot be salvaged at this reporting juncture.

Even a highly niche streaming channel like WWE Network was able to lock in more than 1 million subscribers after a little over a year in business. Consider some of HBO’s critically acclaimed programs as well as their “ins” with content partners to offer many of the newest film releases and sporting events ahead of other television providers, and there is no reason why they shouldn’t have been able to best a wrestling company from Stamford, Connecticut, after almost 44 years in business and close to one year with HBO NOW in a cord-cutting environment.

But it hasn’t, and here’s why it hasn’t.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons / Thomas Gehrke

Cord cutting is on the rise, but so is stream shaving.

People are no longer just closing out their cable subscriptions. They are also taking a more analytical approach to how they watch television, and they are exercising the a la carte option on streaming providers — something traditional cable has yet to embrace for its various channels.

Don’t like Netflix, but love Longmire and Daredevil? Well, just subscribe to the streaming option for those two months out of the year, or save up for the Longmire release later this year and binge-watch both in that one 30-day window.

HBO NOW has extremely limited content.

HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, The Movie Channel, and the rest pride themselves on having 250 movies per month or 300. Netflix and Amazon have thousands each.

Yet if you’ve carried a subscription to any of these options for longer than six months, you’ve probably realized by now that it never seems like there is anything good to watch on television.

If it’s true for Netflix and Amazon with their thousands, then how much truer is it for HBO NOW with its few hundred? Additionally, while HBO does produce good content from time to time, it also doesn’t produce enough of it to justify a year-round subscription, which is a good enough segue into the third reason their streaming platform is disappointing.

HBO NOW is way overpriced.

The streaming market is relatively new compared to cable, so it is difficult to determine “the right price” for a standalone streaming channel. Netflix charges less than $10. Amazon Prime works out to around $8.25 a month and comes with a slew of other add-ons, like music streaming, free books, two-day shipping on retail items from the Amazon Proper website, etc.

At $15 per month, HBO NOW is completely overpriced for something that amounts to a so-so movie collection that isn’t updated frequently enough and a handful of good shows that it only takes a few days to binge through.

It goes back to the stream shaving reason — why should anyone pay $180 per year for less than a month’s worth of television viewing? Why not instead plan your subscription months around the finales of your favorite TV series, then binge view on one select month of the year while saving the rest of your television viewing options for other (cheaper) providers?

If HBO NOW hopes to grow its base, the choice is quite clear: it needs to start charging less for its service or delivering more content reasons to justify the asking price.

What do you think, readers? Would you pay $15 a month for HBO NOW or any streaming option? Sound off in the comments section.

[Image via HBO NOW]