Back when information on HBO Now was just coming out, one detail caught my attention–that people outside the US were not going to be able to use the service. Now, on the one hand, this sort of makes sense. After all, most people outside the US don’t actually watch the show on HBO–they watch on channels that have partnered with HBO for content, like on Sky Atlantic in the UK and M-Net in Africa. In mainland Europe, the show is shown on a diverse array of channels like Telenet, Orange, 365 Media, Betv, Interversion, Amdia, and DTS. Getting such a vast array of partners on board with Apple would have been a huge undertaking, and a nightmare to keep quiet. On the other hand, that’s quite an enormous user base to have to exclude, and keeping them from illegally signing up sounds like a bit of a nightmare.
As suspected, it wasn’t long before people with IP maskers outside the US were signing up. Unfortunately, for legal reasons, HBO really doesn’t want their business. In Australia, where the show airs on Foxtel, HBO has started sending notices to those who illegally signed up that they’re going to be disconnected. An Australian reddit user posted the email he got over the weekend:
Dear HBO NOW User:
It has come to our attention that you may have signed up for and viewed video content on the HBO NOW streaming service from outside of the authorized service area (the United States, including D.C. and certain US territories).
If you feel that you have received this message in error, and that you have both met the eligibility requirements for HBO NOW and have been using the service within the United States, please call us at 1-855-366-2183. If we do not hear from you by April 21, we will proceed with deactivating your HBO NOW account without further notice to you. Please note that it is your responsibility to cancel any automatic billing with your Subscription Provider to avoid incurring charges for any future months.
Thank you, The HBO NOW Team
If you’re HBO, the timing of this story isn’t great. With HBO Now, the network was on track to cultivate a more open, cord cutter-friendly reputation. Even though notices like these are legally required–after all, the network does not have the rights to distribute HBO Now outside the US–they don’t look good alongside the flurry of take down and cease and desist letters HBO has had to send since Game of Thrones Season 5 began. In the last week alone, we’ve seen them go after Periscope, plus send notices to those who shared the illegally leaked episodes. They even sent a cease and desist letter to Brooklyn bar Videology, which aired the show in their screening room all last season without anyone caring. Ultimately, HBO is playing an ineffective game of whack-a-mole by going after just a smattering of the many of people who illegally downloaded the program. Many hipster bars in NYC air the show live, and non-television owning NYC residents will simply head to the next bar down the street.