In its continued push to market the PlayStation 3 as a device that “only does everything,” Sony announced today a deal with HBO that will bring eleven of the premium cable network’s television shows to the PlayStation Video Store. This completes the premium channel trifecta — the store has offered original programming from Showtime (Weeds) and Starz (Party Down) for some time now, but just as Phil Harrison famously proclaimed in 2005 that “the HD era really only starts when we [Sony] are on the market,” I’d bet that the folks at HBO would tell you that the PSN is irrelevant until it starts to sell HBO TV shows.
Of course, since HBO doesn’t want to upset the millions of folks who pay their cable providers extra for the privilege of HBO access — or worse, see them drop their subscriptions and purchase episodes from the PSN exclusively — episodes of HBO shows won’t hit the PSN until the same time as they arrive on DVD, which tends to be eleven or so months after they air. And because HBO really likes to tout the fact that it’s a so-called “premium” network, episodes of its TV shows will be priced accordingly: $2.99 a pop, which is the price for high-definition versions of episodes from anybody else — whether it’s a network like NBC, a basic cable channel like AMC, or another premium channel like Starz. (Standard-definition episodes of regular shows sell for $1.99.)
SCEA president and CEO Jack Tretton heralded the new digital age — in which Sony has positioned the PS3 as the media device at the center of your home entertainment setup — saying, “Networks like HBO can be beholden to the cable and satellite companies, or they can play wherever the consumers play.” HBO Home Entertainment president Henry McGee agreed. He explained that “the download business in general has become an important profit contributor for us,” while noting, “It’s not yet nearly as large as the physical sales channel, but the trend is a good one.”