For consumers in the United States wanting to give HBO their money for a subscription that doesn't require a cable bundle, the popular cable network delivered bad news earlier this year: thanks, but no thanks.
But HBO's response to the grassroots Take My Money, HBO! campaign didn't answer the question: can HBO ignore cord cutters forever?
Cord cutting is real, and HBO has been working to keep the cable subscribers it does have happy. But even if HBO isn't ready to embrace consumers who have decided to opt out of paying for a cable subscription in the United States, it may be testing the waters overseas.
Last week, Variety reported that HBO is prepping the launch of a service in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark as part of a partnership with Parsifal International. HBO Nordic AB, which will have a home on the web at HBONordic.com, won't require a pay-TV subscription. Instead, "for less than 10 euros per month," consumers will be able to subscribe directly.
What about the HBO offer in the US?
According to HBO, consumers hoping for a similar offering in the United States shouldn't read too much into the launch of HBO Nordic AB. Variety quoted an HBO spokesperson as stating:
Each market is unique and HBO approaches each one with what we consider to believe the best business model specific to that territory.
That makes sense. As Variety's Andrew Wallenstein notes:
Scandinavia is a market where HBO doesn't have to protect an entrenched business model as lucrative as the one in the U.S., where a standalone product would jeopardize its deals with distributors from Comcast to DirecTV.
At the same time, HBO's decision to offer a direct subscription service in Scandinavia is notable.
Although the population is relatively small, these countries have some of the highest penetration rates for broadband and mobile access and as a result, have historically been at the forefront of technology adoption. That makes the region an interesting proving ground for building a digital subscription offering that could one day serve as a foundation for similar offerings around the world, including, perhaps, in the U.S.