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HBO Reminds You That HBO Now Works Better When Everyone's Not Trying to Use HBO Now

Streaming video is great, except when everyone wants to stream video.

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.

As promised, HBO has rolled out HBO Now, its $15-a-month streaming service, in time for the new season of “Game of Thrones,” which debuts Sunday.

But if you use HBO Now to stream “Game of Thrones” on Sunday, just remember that you — and lots of other people — are going to be watching TV on the Internet. And watching TV on the Internet can be a problem when lots of people are watching TV on the Internet.

We were reminded of that this weekend, when Sling TV struggled to stream the March Madness college basketball semifinals. And HBO is already anticipating scenarios where people have issues streaming its stuff at certain times. Like when a lot of people are streaming its stuff.

An entry in the “help center” of HBO Now’s site suggests that HBO thinks some users could encounter problems when they stream its stuff at night and other times when service is in high demand. Here’s the title of the page: “Why does HBO Now frequently pause to buffer during video playback at night, but not during the day?”

HBO’s answers:

  • Your broadband connection might not be fast enough.
  • Your broadband provider might not be good enough.
  • There might be too many people trying to watch HBO Now.

Here’s the full response: “Frequent buffering is usually a sign of insufficient download speed from your broadband connection. HBO Now requires a reliable, high-speed Internet connection (3 Mbps or faster) while streaming video. The video player may need to buffer data if your connection speed is interrupted or dramatically slowed, even momentarily.

“If you notice consistently different playback performance at different times of day, it may be a sign of the usage patterns of other people connected to your broadband provider or to HBO Now. Some times of day and days of the week are more popular than others for watching video on HBO Now and other streaming video services. Contact your broadband provider if you continue to experience frequent issues at certain times of day. If you have consistent problems with particular HBO Now videos, please contact HBO’s customer support.”

In other words: It’s the Internet. Sometimes you’re gonna have problems when you want to watch something.

Last year, HBO had a couple high-profile outages with HBO Go, the streaming service it provides to people who get traditional pay-TV subscriptions. (HBO Now offers the same programming as HBO Go, but doesn’t require a pay-TV subscription; HBO Go’s help pages provide similar, but less extensive, answers about buffering issues.)

Executives are hopeful that they’ll have better luck with HBO Now, in large part because they’re using MLB Advanced Media, the company that handles streaming for pro baseball, as well ESPN, Turner Networks and several other video companies, to do the heavy lifting.

But as HBO’s pre-written answer indicates, the company realizes that it can’t promise a flawless stream every time. And the odds of a problem increase as usage goes up. So maybe you might want to watch Khaleesi and company on Monday.

This article originally appeared on

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