Winners & Losers: HBO protects its throne, Hailo crashes and burns

In the game of TV executives, you win or you die

 

 HBO

It’s not Netflix. It’s HBO™

Game of Thrones’ Daenarys Targaryen facing off against House of Cards’ Frank Underwood

Here in Canada, our broadcast regulator just concluded a long and laborious series of public hearings with the purpose of determining the future of Canadian television. (The outcome? More study!) But in the U.S., the major players are just getting on with it. Case in point is HBO, which announced this week that it will launch a standalone online streaming service next year (but not in Canada, of course). The network, home to Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire, says the streaming platform will target the 10 million American households that pay for broadband Internet access, but not cable television. Some consumers have been agitating for HBO to pull this off for a long time, fed up with having to pay for a bundle of channels they never watch in order to get the one channel they do. HBO’s streaming strategy is just one more example of disruption to the traditional cable television model, and puts pressure on other networks to launch their own over-the-top services. That, ultimately, could give some consumers more reason to cancel their cable subscriptions. HBO’s streaming option won’t immediately be available in Canada when it launches next year. To access what are considered to be among the best television programs around these days, you’ll still have to subscribe to cable. But hey, you can always stream the latest season of Heartland over at CBC.

 Hailo

Car trouble

Tiny Hailo car crashing into big Uber car

Taxi-hailing app Hailo announced this week that it’s retreating from North America, citing the “astronomical” marketing costs needed to compete in a crowded market. The company’s operations in Toronto, Montreal, and a host of other cities will be shut down so that Hailo, which is based in London, can focus on European and Asian markets. Gobs of venture capital money have been tossed at the taxi-app space in the past few years, as various companies try to make the process of ordering a cab more convenient and efficient. Some, like Uber, have worked outside the traditional taxi industry, often to the consternation of transit authorities and unions. Hailo, however, tried to forge better relations with drivers and obtained a taxi license wherever it operated. But Uber proved to be better funded (it raised US$1.2 billion in June) and quickly amassed customers in North America. The loss of Hailo in Canada unfortunately leaves us with fewer options to hail a cab. We might be reduced to doing it the old-fashioned way: standing on the curb and waving our arms in a desperate attempt to attract a driver’s attention, like some feral primate without a smartphone. The horror.

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