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No TV? No Subscription? No Problem

Jenna Wortham (via NYT/ AFR) | April 8, 2013
HBO Go can be accessed using anyone's account. This behaviour of sharing password information to HBO Go, Netflix, Hulu and other streaming sites and services, appears increasingly prevalent among web-savvy people who don't own televisions or subscribe to cable.

"The best content is watched live or near-live," said Alex Iskold, the founder and chief executive of GetGlue, a social TV application that lets users check in and inform their friends about the programs and movies they're watching. People have become accustomed to chatting along to big television events while on Twitter and Facebook, so that social component "has to be real time", he said.

That is partly why Twitter and Facebook are so eager to partner with television networks around large-scale sports and awards events like the Olympics and the Oscars.

In general, live television is receding as people time-shift its content, but the notion of "linear television" is here to say, he said.

Mr Iskold has a point. When I tried to log onto HBO Go last Sunday to see what was happening with theStarks and the mother of dragons, the site was buckling under the load of many others who, just like me, were tuning in at 10 pm, when the network said it would release the episode online. It would have been fun to share theories about that episode's plot with friends stymied by the same delay, instead of checking out new shows on Hulu until the demand lightened.

Some streaming media companies, at least, are starting to think about different ways to approach this quandary. Rdio, a subscription-based streaming music service, offers a discounted family plan that lets users create separate profiles to store their favourite songs and keep track of their friends.

"My wife was constantly playing Yo Gabba Gabba songs for our son and it showed up in my feed and my friends were all like, 'What?' " said Drew Larner, the chief executive of the company. "It's critical to let people do their own curation and share that with friends."

Last week, Rdio introduced Vdio, a video version of its site that will let people stream movies and TV shows and tell friends what they are watching while they are watching it.

It's not much, but it's a start. And many more new paths are likely if the entertainment companies' business models evolve in tandem with users' habits.



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