Last week, HBO announced that their app, HBO Go, hit a million downloads in its first week for iOS and Android devices. The app gives streaming access to 1400 titles and is available for sale in the US only. For perspective, there have been only a few other apps that have reached those numbers that quickly in this industry – Angry Birds and SKYPE being two of them that have done it faster.
So why is this a big deal? For a great overview of the impact on emerging players like Netflix (HBO declined to provide content to Netflix) and how HBO is starting to reward loyal users with exclusive content on the device, read this great summary by David Zax over at Fast Company.
Clearly, this is a perfect example of extending a brand’s reach into the mobile space. HBO decided they were more interested in holding on to control of their brand and the brands of their shows and not as interested right away in diminishing the brands to gain mass distribution – we shouldn’t be surprise about this, that’s been HBO’s MO since they launched. In fact, it would surprise me if they went any other way because it would go against their business fiber. This is a very important lesson when looking at mobile – distribution is important but remaining true to the brand and loyal customers engenders trust and more loyalty.
There are two immediate and incredible opportunities for HBO to now start engaging with those 1 million plus (and growing) HBO Go users.
David Zax covered one aspect of this in his article (offering advanced screenings of upcoming episodes for Game of Thrones) but enhanced content is much larger than this. Just look at the DVD industry. Movies and television shows have almost become secondary to the behind-the-scenes, deleted or alternate endings features that make up many more hours of content. HBO now has a conduit to push that content to their viewers in real-time through audio identification on live broadcasts or while watching older episodes. Is this the start of the end of DVDs?
The Ultimate Focus Group
With such a large and growing install base HBO now has an incredible conduit to immediate customer feedback for their programming. They can test new shows, create new content exclusively for the platform, create serials with character back stories, test endings and get viewer participation all from the devices they are on – something that would not have been as easily available to them if they were a part of someone else’s channel. This is where it gets very interesting – shaping content for broadcast television through mobile testing. No more closed focus groups with a dozen people.
This is a very interesting time for television as the broadcasters struggle with the deep gap between our televisions and our couches. Perhaps a cue from HBO’s early success is what will change the game.
What do you think?