We humans are constantly craving for entertainment. In today’s world with screens and Internet access readily available everywhere, people clamor for the best all the time. It terms of television content, it’s hard to compete with HBO.
As is common now on the Internet, a grassroots movement has started to free HBO’s access to everyone. Currently, HBO is an additional $15-30 on top of your astronomical cable subscription. HBO fans are begging for HBO to allow users to subscribe just to HBO Go, their groundbreaking platform that allows access to HBO content to any internet connected device – free with your subscription.
The website “Take My Money HBO!” saw over 60,000 pledges in just 12 hours with people pledging their dollar amount for HBO content – without having to pay the cable companies. The conversation continues on Twitter with the hashtag #takemymoneyhbo. The site saw over 163,000 pledges in all.
Their argument makes sense – if they can’t afford or don’t pay for HBO, then they will either pirate the shows they want to watch (HBO’s Game of Thrones will be the most pirated show of 2012) or use their friends to watch their favorite shows. Makes sense practically – but it is much more complicated. Amongst my generation, it’s not strange to see a tweet or Facebook post asking if they can come watch HBO for the latest True Blood or Newsroom on Sunday.
HBO isn’t budging from their subscription model, and I don’t think they should. Controlling access to your content makes people want it more – the simple principle of supply and demand. Allowing everyone to access HBO will dumb down the quality of the shows because the novelty wears off. Yes, there will always be the Internet pirates, and the people who access their friend’s HBO Go subscriptions (Thanks Mom and Dad!) The loyal fans won’t go away as long as the shows remain superb. That onus is on the network. It’s called premium cable for a reason.
On the Internet, outlets are giving things away. You can pay for a subscription to a magazine like Fast Company, but the reality is that it posts its magazine stories for free on its site throughout the month. We’re in a shift from physical to digital, and companies are still figuring out how to charge for digital content. Nobody knows where we’re going technologically, so nobody has figured out how to embrace or monetize it. Instead of giving it away, it’s great to see HBO control their medium.
It’s hard to see others following HBO’s model. Publications like New York Times and Wall Street Journal see success behind their pay wall because of their clout. It’s hard to see other outlets having the ability to pull it off. For example, if there was a pay wall on Mashable, you would just go to another site for the same news.
At the end of the day, creating premium content will yield a premium following – the concern is how to control & monetize it on the world wide web.
Last week, HBO came under heavy criticism by animal activist groups after three horses were euthanized during production of the drama Luck. The criticism lead to Luck being cancelled almost 24 hours after the third horse was put down. While this situation raises questions about the use of animals for entertainment’s sake, it also presents an example of how organizations like HBO can handle a PR crisis — diffusing the situation before it snowballs into a larger issue.
Let’s face it — there’s always a chance of backlash from animal activists groups when producing a show that involves animals. Groups like PETA are influential and their claims can rarely be ignored as they fight for the rights of animals across situations and industries. In this case, HBO read the writing on the wall. It realized that the show could potentially lose more horses during production, leading to louder and louder opposition by these groups. Cutting their losses now avoids potentially larger problems – and headaches – later.
In this instance, HBO did what was necessary – and right. They avoided a reputation-damaging situation, while managing to keep their brand reputation at the highest level possible. While your company may not face this exact same situation, here are a few questions to consider when facing a crisis:
Can we permanently correct the situation in a timely manner? If not, what can we tell the press we are doing to rectify the circumstances?
When (not if) we come under criticism from the public and press, how do we measure the severity (and possible outcomes) from their claims?
What is more important to our brand? Short-term revenue loss or long-term brand reputation?
Always have a plan in place…And, in crisis communications, always expect the unexpected.