07 November 2011

Comcast, DirecTV No (HBO) Go on Roku

Comcast and DirecTV have decided not to authorize their HBO subscribers to use HBO Go on the Roku platform. They do have deals for HBO Go and they do authorize the app on other platforms (e.g., iPhone, iPad) and it would not cost the distributor or the customer any additional money.
There are two good reasons for this choice: they don't want the competition and don't want the strong programmers to find their own way to the television set, as per my earlier post.
Roku 2 XS with some of the services available on the platform
Below see Rich Greenfield's demo of HBO Go on the Roku box. It does an excellent job of highlighting the difference between HBO Go on the Roku and the lesser experience of HBO on Demand on Time Warner Cable, as seen in the second video.


  1. I see your reasoning behind Comcast and DirecTV’s decision to exclude offering HBO GO via Roku but what about customers? It’s clear that this is a product consumers want access to and though their competitors are providing it, Comcast is not. It hardly seems to be a smart business move for Comcast considering they could lose customers, especially if they keep withholding benefits customers can get by switching pay-TV providers. As a DISH employee, I know DISH works to offer the most innovative technology and services possible. How is Comcast going to compete if they don’t?

  2. @TECHIEBLGRL: Thank you for your comment and I appreciate you being upfront about being at Dish employee. Certainly Comcast and DirecTV are not more competitive with other distributors by not offering HBO Go via the Roku. (The distributors that do offer it are listed here http://support.roku.com/entries/20585347-does-my-television-provider-offer-hbo-go-on-roku-devices). I can only surmise that they see a bigger threat in HBO going direct to the TV with "their" customers than they fear the potential competitive impact. Distributors make these tradeoffs every day. Dish has dropped popular channels during affiliation negotiations; certainly that didn't improve their competitive position while the channels were off, but might have helped Dish to strike a more favorable long term deal. Right now, the industry does not have a very strong sense of how important HBO Go is -- Time Warner Cable and Cablevision do not carry it at all -- much less how important access to the service via the Roku is. To the extent HBO Go on the Roku is a competitive issue for Comcast and DirecTV, their position regarding blocking access to it could very well change.

  3. Sorry it took so long to respond. I agree with your conclusion that Comcast and DirecTV must feel threatened by this new service and that their position on the issue may change. When it comes to dropping channels, it is usually because the company is not willing to accept the price increase since they will have to pass it on to customers who obviously won’t like that. I just can't help but think that customers lose faith in their service provider when they do not offer something that many other providers do because they are worried about competition. As a consumer, I love competition; it prevents monopolies, keeps prices low, and keeps technology innovative. Consequently I am not the biggest fan of companies holding out on customers because they’re worried about some competition. To me, the best way to avoid competition is to offer great products, prices, and customer service. Not offering a feature because they’re worried about competition seems like a copout, a way to get around providing a great service. Additionally, this issue seems reminiscent of the problem with pirating; if people want something bad enough, they'll find a way to get it. So, while they may be trying to avoid losing out to HBO in the future with direct to consumer content, in the short term, a customer may switch providers and Comcast or DirecTV will lose out both in the short term and the long term assuming that direct to consumer content is inevitably what customers will go for. The last thing I would like to say is that I admire your business sense; it is a rare thing to find and understanding is half the battle.