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This is what it looks like when apps are the future of TV.
April 25, 2016
Setting up for the Season 6 premiere of Game of Thrones was a comedy of errors.
Like any good procrastinator, I didn't try to renew my HBO Now subscription until a few hours before GoT was scheduled to air. Three media streamers, two mobile devices and one laptop later, I finally managed to make it all work. And I was one of the lucky ones.
Here's a quick recount of my online experience. First I went to the HBO Now site on my computer to renew my subscription. Happily it only took two tries to guess my password and log in. But then I needed to set up payment and access through the actual device I wanted to watch on. Our Roku account is in another household member's name, so that took some extra effort. Password procured, I switched over to the TV screen. At that point I could access the HBO Now channel, but there was no payment method associated with the account.
Too difficult. Time to switch to the Apple TV. Turns out we'd already installed HBO Now on the Apple TV so that was a plus. But I still had to tie my HBO Now account to the on-screen app. That required both my HBO Now login and our household Apple account credentials.
In theory we have a keyboard to help with data entry on the TV screen, but it wasn't working so we had to use the remote control to click painfully through the right letters for the various usernames and passwords. We started down that path until we discovered it was possible to dictate into the Apple TV remote instead. Logins complete, I tested the HBO app, and voilà, it all worked as advertised.
Things were looking up!
Want to know more about the impact of web services on the pay-TV sector? Check out our dedicated OTT services content channel here on Light Reading.
A few hours later it was time to watch Game of Thrones. With a small viewing party in our living room, I turned on the Apple TV and hit play on the Season 6 premiere. Sorry, said the screen, that video is not available in your region.
Try again. No dice. Try again. Same error. My fellow viewers were getting antsy.
Time to try the Chromecast.
While one person fished out our Chromecast stick from behind the TV and set it up, I pulled out my iPad, updated the HBO Now app, and hit play on GoT again figuring we could cast the stream to the TV from my tablet. Unfortunately, I got the same error message on my iPad. Video not available in my region.
Panic setting in, I turned to Twitter. Lots of problems reported, but no apparent help there. Maybe if I just kept hitting play?
Fortunately at that point someone else in the room was able to bring up the GoT stream on his phone with his HBO Go account. We cast his stream to my TV and magically found ourselves transported (finally!) into the land of dragons. Game of Thrones had begun.
As I said, I was one of the lucky ones. According to reports this morning, plenty of viewers apparently didn't get their GoT fix at all. On multiple Twitter support pages, Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) says it has now fixed the problems for both HBO Now and HBO Go. Users simply need to force quit the app, sign out and sign back in. Hopefully viewers read that news before they see all the spoilers spilling out over social media this morning. Good luck with that.
If last night's HBO woes tell us anything, it's that online viewing still isn't any match for the ease of traditional TV. In the long run that doesn't really matter because while viewers like me whine and complain, we still do whatever it takes to get access to our favorite shows (hopefully without pirating). Eventually, HBO and the rest of the Internet will iron the irritating kinks out.
However, in the short term, HBO proves that streaming video still isn't everything it's cracked up to be.
And if apps are the future of TV, the industry still has a lot of work to do.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading
Senior Editor, Cable/Video
Mari Silbey is a senior editor covering broadband infrastructure, video delivery, smart cities and all things cable. Previously, she worked independently for nearly a decade, contributing to trade publications, authoring custom research reports and consulting for a variety of corporate and association clients. Among her storied (and sometimes dubious) achievements, Mari launched the corporate blog for Motorola's Home division way back in 2007, ran a content development program for Limelight Networks and did her best to entertain the video nerd masses as a long-time columnist for the media blog Zatz Not Funny. She is based in Washington, D.C.
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