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Most of You Watched 'Game of Thrones' on HBO's Old Streaming Service, Not the New One

HBO Now may be the future, but HBO Go is what streamers are using right now.

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 Now had its first major test on Sunday night, and it seemed to do just fine. The streaming service served up “Game of Thrones” and the rest of the pay TV channel’s shows without any major outages.

That’s not surprising, for a couple of reasons:

  • HBO and MLB Advanced Media, the company that handled the streaming for the network, had been prepping for Sunday night since last fall.
  • While lots of us were writing and talking about HBO Now, most people who watched HBO on the Web on Sunday watched it on HBO Go — HBO’s older streaming service, which it runs itself.

I had a hunch that HBO expected many more people to use HBO Go instead of its new service. After all, HBO Now only appeared on the market last week, and HBO Go — which is available to every subscriber who gets HBO through a pay TV operator — has been around for years.

But now we have data to back up that educated guess, via Sandvine, a broadband service company. Sandvine measured streaming usage via one of its clients — a U.S.-based cable TV and broadband company — and found that HBO Go consumed nearly five times as much bandwidth as HBO Now on Sunday night. HBO Go accounted for 3.4 percent of video traffic, Sandvine says, while HBO Now accounted for 0.7 percent.

Feel free to caveat this report — it’s from a single provider, on a single night — but Sandvine’s data tends to carry a lot of weight in the video world. They’re the people, for instance, who estimate that Netflix accounts for about a third of Internet usage during primetime (as it did on Sunday again).

It’s also worth noting that the last time Sandvine measured Web usage, in the fall of 2014, it found that HBO generated about 1 percent of prime-time downstream traffic. But that data is usually collected over a month, not a single night, which likely explains the difference between last fall’s numbers and Sunday’s.

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