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HBO said yesterday that beginning next year, it will make its programming available via a stand-alone, web-based service, allowing even those without cable television or an HBO package to see its shows. There are 80 million homes in the US that do not get HBO programming, and the move is seen as a potential financial bonanza for the company, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue.

According to the Advertising Age coverage of the story, "The question is what effect the move will have on streaming players such as Netflix, which has long said HBO is its main competitor, and pay-TV companies that have held onto subscribers partly because they were they only way to get HBO.

"Other popular cable channels may eventually make similar moves. CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves has hinted that the company may consider selling Showtime directly to consumers, bypassing pay-TV providers, while ESPN recently laid the groundwork for a web-based service that would stream live NBA games even to non-cable, non-satellite subscribers."

HBO programming currently is available on the web to HBO subscribers, via the HBO Go application.
KC's View:
That sound you hear is that of the walls tumbling down, as this move by HBO conceivably could change everything about how people consume programming and pay cable companies that have had virtual legal monopolies in many communities. Suddenly, one can imagine an entirely a la carte approach to TV viewing - if I only want to watch "Last Week Tonight" from HBO, and "Homeland" from Showtime, and I want to see this stuff in real time, I no longer have to invest in packages that are unilaterally decided upon by Cablevision.

And why has this happened? Ultimately, it is happening because that's what the consumer demands … and it plays nicely into the goals of companies like HBO to grow their influence and revenue. As consumers, the balance of power has shifted to us … and the companies that do not recognize this are the ones that, in the long run, will suffer from creeping irrelevance.

This particular story is about cable television entertainment. But the broader lesson should be taken seriously by anyone trying to reach consumers.

By the way … a lot of young people already have made the shift. They don't have cable, they watch everything online, and were making companies like HBO less relevant by the day. HBO had no choice, in the big picture, but to make this move.

And now, watch and listen as the walls come tumbling down.