HBO Joins Video Download Race

Dennis Faas's picture

HBO is launching a 'free' service allowing viewers to watch its programming on computers. The 'HBO on Broadband' system offers a live feed of the television channel, and more than 350 movies and TV shows to download and watch at a later time. That's more than most cable TV operators offer through video on demand services.

There's no specific charge to use the service, but it's only available to people who subscribe to HBO's television channel. And you must get your broadband access from the same cable company from which you get HBO TV. At the moment it's only being tested on two broadband systems in Green Bay and Milwaukee, both of which are run by Time Warner (HBO's parent company).

Oddly, though the firm has another 21 systems across the country, it says the limited launch is not being done as a test. They hope to make the service available through rival broadband providers. Its thought they almost had a deal with Comcast, but the two sides couldn't agree how much Comcast should pay for each new subscriber they attracted by carrying the service.

The service will work on up to five different computers, but there are strict security measures to stop non-subscribers gaining access. Because subscribers can store downloaded movies and TV shows, it may be popular with laptop owners who travel a lot. (Source:

It's likely HBO has launched the service partly to try to retain subscribers and partly to try to get more people using Time Warner for both cable television and broadband. (Source:

Video downloading seems to be the flavor of the month. Apple has just announced movie downloads through the iTunes system, while DVD rental group Netflix is also adding a download service.

It may not be a coincidence that the HBO service has launched just after Time Warner announced plans to limit excessive use of its broadband service. They'll want to avoid heavy users clogging up the system and potentially slowing down video downloads for the average customer.

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