clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

HBO Go Doesn't, Again. Does It Matter?

Game of Noes!

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

HBO has seen this one before.

Last night, users of its HBO Go streaming service who showed up at 9pm eastern, so they could watch the much-anticipated season premiere of “Game of Thrones,” got error messages instead.

HBO sent out apologetic tweets, and eventually got things running again.

This was a repeat from March, when HBO Go users who wanted to watch the much-anticipated season finale of “True Detective” went through the same experience.

The two episodes invite embarrassing comparisons to Netflix, which streams video to some 30 million customers, and doesn’t generate the same kind of headlines for its outages. The fact that Netflx isn’t showing the same show — at the same time, to many people — is relevant, but that kind of nuance doesn’t usually show up in 140 characters.

After last month’s flub, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said his pay-TV channel would be improving its tech. But apparently things aren’t there yet.

So what does that mean?

That depends on the reason for HBO Go’s problems, which HBO isn’t spelling out. But we can break it into two likely categories: Either HBO Go is having problems handling a rush of people showing up at its door, or HBO Go is having problems sending out lots of streams at the same time.

If it’s the latter, that could be a problem for Web video in general, which is supposed to be heading toward a future where lots of people tune in to watch the same shows, at the same time — just like conventional TV.

But if it’s just a matter of setting up a website that can handle lots of incoming traffic, that ought to be easier to fix.

We’ve seen other TV networks face the same issue, by the way, with different results. Earlier this year, ABC had a difficult time live-streaming the Oscars. But NBCUniversal* was able to let some 700,000 people stream the U.S./Russia hockey game during the Olympics.

* NBCUniversal is an investor in Re/code.

This article originally appeared on