Well, it’s a start. HBO is licensing select shows to Hulu — in Japan.
Several titles such as The Sopranos and Sex and the City will be available to subscribers to the Japanese version of the online content service starting today, with more titles coming later this year.
The news comes on the heels of a online protest urging HBO to distribute its current programming in a pay-per-view format online rather than as a monthly service that’s only available to subscribers to its regular cable channel. The “Take My Money, HBO!” campaign has cord-cutting viewers arguing that HBO should make its content available in more convenient ways, or else fans will just steal it using file sharing services (HBO’s Game of Thrones was recently ranked the most stolen TV show). HBO does make past seasons of certain shows available via iTunes, but for current episodes you can only watch HBO’s content online with the network’s HBO Go player.
HBO fans in the U.S. shouldn’t think the Japan deal represents some kind of game-change signal from the network that will soon bring True Blood to the stateside version of Hulu, however. HBO licenses its products in all sorts of ways around the world on a market-by-market basis. “For now, the economics do not support a stand-alone HBO online service,” an HBO spokesperson says.