HBO Go site offers online video -- to existing subscribers only
Today, HBO launched a site that shows the same lack of initiative as its past ventures into online video.
Its new HBO Go site touts itself as "HBO on your computer" but only offers access to a subset of the Time Warner subsidiary's programming -- and only to a subset of its current subscribers.
That's right: Instead of simply letting online viewers pay directly for a Web subscription, HBO requires that they first pay $16 or so a month for a subscription via a traditional TV service. And since it's apparently too complicated to build in authentication for every cable, satellite and fiber-optic TV provider that offers HBO, HBO Go accepts only Comcast or Verizon Fios viewers. The latter contingent can't log into the site until tomorrow, although its login prompt makes no mention of that hang-up.
A Multichannel News story quotes HBO Co-President Eric Kessler calling this site "more about subscriber retention" and "affiliate friendly." In other words, HBO set up this site to protect its existing model instead of taking advantage of the Internet's efficient distribution to expand its business -- you know, what most competent, consumer-focused operations might want to do in this situation.
Since my switch to over-the-air broadcasts means I don't pay for TV at all, let alone HBO, I can't report on the quality of HBO Go's streaming video. (For details about that, see Erick Schonfeld's write-up for TechCrunch.)
I can, however, confirm that HBO Go's selection looks mediocre. It offers only 14 of HBO's original series -- a thin catalogue that leaves out "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Entourage" and "Flight of the Conchords."
The site's inventory of 209 movies is better, but many of those are older releases you could watch on other streaming and download services that actually welcome new customers.
To add to the aggravation factor, HBO Go -- not just its videos, but pretty much its entire interface -- is done up in Adobe Flash. That makes the site more sluggish than necessary on regular computers and renders it completely inaccessible on almost all phones.
Maybe this site will get better over time, just as HBO has improved its initially weak selection on Apple's iTunes Store. We can only hope so... In the meantime, if you pay for HBO and can log into HBO Go, please share your review of the site in the comments.
February 17, 2010; 10:36 AM ET
Categories: TV , Video
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