Fred Wilson over at AVC has a post about the new HBO GO iPad app. It seems that the app has an Airplay button that allows the user, one would think, to stream the content to a TV. It turns out, though, that Wilson could get only the audio portion to stream. The video would not appear. After some research, Wilson discovered that, no, this isn’t a bug or user error: it’s a feature.
Wilson makes some good points:
- If you’re not going to support the streaming of the audio and video portions of the content, why have the Airplay button at all?
- What’s the point of crippling Airplay in the first place? After all, you have to have an HBO cable subscription to use HBO GO so it isn’t costing HBO anything to enable Airplay.
- Big Media does this kind of thing all the time and it’s nuts.
That last point is, it seems to me, the important one. Big Media is relentlessly user hostile but can’t understand the lack of sympathy they get over piracy. On the surface, they should get that sympathy. After all, they spend billions of dollars producing content only to see it stolen. That hurts not just the fat cats but the “little people” such as writers, actors, crew, and all the others who help get the product out the door.
Once you look beneath surface, though, a different picture emerges. Most of the damage is self-inflicted. As I discussed in my post Scientific American on Piracy, Big media encourages piracy by not making the content available legally.
The HBO GO Airplay flap is another example. Rather than let users consume the media in a way that is convenient for them, Big Media erects pointless obstacles. The thing is, they aren’t really effective obstacles. Users will simply stream the content from somewhere without the obstacles. As one of the commenters on Wilson’s post put it, “it’s their way of supporting torrents”.