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If you’re a cord cutter who just wants to watch “Game of Thrones,” “Boardwalk Empire” or “The Newsroom,” you might not be completely out of luck. According to Reuters, HBO has been kicking around the idea of opening up its HBO Go service to broadband Internet subscribers who don’t have cable TV.

“Maybe HBO GO, with our broadband partners, could evolve,” said HBO CEO Richard Plepler while attending the “Game of Thrones” third season premiere.

HBO GO IS COMING to broadband subscribers who don't have cable. Maybe. Someday.
HBO GO IS COMING to broadband subscribers who don’t have cable. Maybe. Someday.

The HBO GO service has become quite popular, but it currently shuts out many interested potential customers. The service requires that users subscribe to a cable TV package from companies like Comcast, Time Warner or DirecTV. These customers must also pay an additional fee on top of their cable bill for access to HBO. Once those two prerequisites are met, users can enter their cable account information into the HBO GO app and watch current and past seasons of many HBO shows.

Nixing the cable TV requirement would surely result in an influx of new customers who pay for broadband Internet access but get their video entertainment elsewhere.

Such a move would have several hurdles to clear before ever becoming a reality. For starters, cable TV providers might not be thrilled that customers could access HBO’s original programming without paying for cable. These providers subsidize the cost of HBO partially — the amount you pay for HBO on your cable bill is just a portion of what HBO charges cable providers to carry its network.

Should HBO GO become available to non-cable TV subscribers, it could potentially cost more, as well. If the subsidies kicked in by cable TV providers can’t be applied to broadband Internet subscribers, HBO might be forced to charge more than the $15-$20 the network costs as a cable add-on. Would customers pay more than that for access to one network when online streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are offering content for $7.99 a month or less?

Whether or not it happens, this is a route HBO should definitely explore. The total cost of a cable bill with HBO and the strict requirements for HBO GO have driven many fans of the network’s shows toward piracy. No other service outside HBO GO has access to past and present seasons of the network’s shows, and it’s not even possible to buy current season episodes through iTunes or Amazon. If HBO can convert just some of the BitTorrenting crowd into paid HBO Go subscribers, the potential for increased revenues is definitely there.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on this one. In the meantime, what are your thoughts? If HBO GO was available to you, so long as you had a broadband Internet subscription, would you pay for it? Let us know.


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