HBO finally embraces new media this week as it offers up episodes for sale on iTunes. For now, they are only selling shows that have gone off the air, like Deadwood, The Sopranos, Flight of the Conchords, Rome, and The Wire. The really desirable episodes, though, won’t be turning up on iTunes any time soon because why buy the cow when you are still paying monthly for the whole herd?
HBO cannot really afford to split off its exclusive programming to lowly iTunes users, otherwise why would any of us fools shell out the extra dough to have HBO every day? Many of the great HBO series’ are available on DVD and can be purchased by season, which makes the iTunes thing seem a little strange. On the other hand, it being almost summer, many a traveler might decide this is just the time to catch up on that talked about show The Wire on their iPod or laptop while flying over the ocean to Europe. That doesn’t sound half bad actually.
Entertainment is slowly edging us out of living rooms and many agree that the future is in little handheld devices that function as entertainment, shopping portals and communication devices. How long before we get rid of this technology altogether and simply have chips and hard drives embedded in our flesh? Entertainment literally in the palm of your hand?
Perhaps that’s a tad dramatic. After all, it’s only a slight weakness in HBO’s hard shell and not the end of all things holy. Addicted viewers still have to stay subscribed to the cable channel in order to see first run episodes of Big Love. HBO is losing nothing by exposing their programming to the iTunes crowd. They’re managing to put their product into the long tail of digital media, thus ensuring a broader fan base.
iTunes will sell each episode for $2.99, a dollar more than the usual TV download. It is also something that can only be watched via iTunes and one that can’t be burned onto a DVD (although there’s always the possibility some hacker will find a way around this as veteran net users well know). You pay, you watch, end of story.
It seems awfully restrictive for episodes that aren’t going to be hotly sought after, certainly nothing like the chaos more desirable programming would offer, if, say, Entourage was available. Still, there is something exciting about being to log on to iTunes and see an ad for the complete season of Sex and the City, which just happens to collide with the release date of the feature film of the series. There is something empowering about being able to choose what you want to watch and when, watching for the pure pleasure of it, on your own time, on your own dime.
For now, this will do. Time will tell whether HBO will decide to expand its offerings. The network is an added monthly cost in these difficult economic times and the brand must be protected. After all, “It’s not TV. It’s HBO.”