In an effort to gain more subscribers HBO launched its standalone “HBO Now” service earlier this year.
The subscription allows Americans to access HBO’s content, including Game of Thrones, without the need to have a television subscription.
With the offer HBO hopes to drive people away from pirate sites, but it also created a new form of unauthorized use. As with Netflix and Hulu, many people outside the U.S. signed up for the service through VPNs and other geo-unblocking tools.
While Netflix is still fairly lax about geo-unblocking, HBO is now cracking down on the practice. A few days ago thousands of VPN and proxy “pirates” started to receive worrying email warnings.
“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),” HBO writes.
The emails in question target users all over the world, including Canada, the UK, Germany and Australia. Unless they were flagged by mistake, HBO will terminate the accounts of affected subscribers within days and without the option of a refund.
HBO is cracking down on VPN and proxy pirates to protect the value of their licensing deals. If millions of foreigners use the U.S. version, local partners in these countries are going to complain.
However, since legal options are often lacking there’s little doubt that many ‘unauthorized’ viewers will find less official ways to access the shows they love to watch. This time, however, HBO will not get a dime.