HBO Go, why do you spurn me so?

HBO, no: a plea from a former cable subscriber for why you should offer an alternative subscription plan.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR | Gaming | Metaverse technologies | Wearable tech | Tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
3 min read

HBO No. Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

Dear HBO,

Hey. It's me, Scott. Remember me? I used to be an HBO subscriber, back when I had cable. That was about a year and a half ago. It's been a while. I miss you a little. Hope you're doing OK.

I mean, I hear you are. Everyone's talking about your latest shows. "Game of Thrones" sounds great. I used to follow some of the others. Now, I've sort of lost track. I've been doing great, by the way. I'm watching TV on Hulu Plus and Netflix, and getting by. I'm reading a bit more. I use my iPad a whole bunch, too.

Just when I was getting over you, I saw you waltz back into my part of town this morning. I saw that your HBO Go app launched on the App Store. I was tempted. I downloaded you. I knew you weren't for me, but I wanted to see if you'd at least be friendly.

HBO Go, you're an iOS app for the iPhone and iPad that requires subscription to both cable television and HBO, which makes you a TV accessory instead of a way to watch TV without cable. In fact, you won't even work with all providers yet; I'd need to be getting my cable via AT&T, Charter, Cox, DirecTV, Dish, Suddenlink, Verizon, or Xfinity to access your content anyway. So, instead, I browsed through your list of TV shows and movies. I pressed my face against the window and tried your "free preview," which amounted to 3-minute promo clips I could find online. The video quality looked great. You looked better than I remembered.

So, please meet me halfway.

HBO Go, why won't you allow subscribers to just use your iOS app and skip cable? Hear me out. I know you're in deep with cable TV. I know that all those subscribers you get help subsidize your great looks and your beautiful shows. But I'd be willing to pay, see. How much? Well, more than I'd pay for Hulu Plus. At least $10 a month. You say $20? Well, depending on the shows and movies, maybe even that, too.

What I don't want to do is pirate content. You don't want it; I don't want it. I actually want to pay for HBO shows. Unfortunately, I'm essentially locked out unless I go back to the whole tiered system of pay cable. iTunes sells episodes of HBO shows, but not of currently running seasons. So, I don't watch at all. You're trying to be an incentive to make me come back to the cable fold, but I'm not biting.

At some point, if the monthly subscription were high enough, and you got me to sign up, maybe someday down the road I'd realize I'd be better off signing up for cable again, much like David Katzmaier realized when he experimented with cutting the cable cord. I just ask that you at least give me the opportunity to pay you and find out for myself. Let me pay for an expensive a la carte hamburger and realize I should have ordered the complete prix fixe lunch instead. See, I'm not going back to cable. And I can't buy current seasons per episode anywhere. Which means you've lost my money completely. I don't want to be a TV snob, but you leave me no choice.

I can't help but wonder who else feels the same, and who else you're turning away. It's sad, because I really do want to be with you. Don't be so cruel, HBO. Your iPad app looks great...if only I could use it.