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GoT Fans Curse HBO (Not Right) Now

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!


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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.

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— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

Mitch Wagner 4/25/2016 | 4:08:35 PM
Mari on the phone to her cable provider customer support
Mitch Wagner 4/25/2016 | 4:07:11 PM
The scene at the Silbey household Sunday night
Mitch Wagner 4/25/2016 | 4:03:06 PM
Re: ...And a partridge in a pear tree How'd I get into this conversation?
mendyk 4/25/2016 | 2:47:57 PM
Re: ...And a partridge in a pear tree Now you know how Dickens' readers felt. Or followers of The Adventures of Little Orphan Annie. Or today's fans of Tales of Mitch Wagner.
msilbey 4/25/2016 | 2:44:59 PM
Re: ...And a partridge in a pear tree Ah, to each his own. It took me 4 and a half seasons before I watched a single episode, but once I did, I was hooked. Unfortunately, after binging on GoT last year, I now have to wait each week for a new episode to come out. Devastating.
mendyk 4/25/2016 | 2:09:48 PM
Re: ...And a partridge in a pear tree Mari -- The account of your attempt to be entertained is ... entertaining. And to my mind, much more worthwhile and efficient than subjecting myself to an hour of Gore of Thrones.
msilbey 4/25/2016 | 12:28:55 PM
...And a partridge in a pear tree I was so tempted to add that line after three streamers, two mobile devices and a laptop.

On a slightly more serious note, the GoT use case for online streaming is pretty narrow. Few premieres get that kind of audience any more. But the issue of futzing with lots of different devices, accounts and streaming platforms isn't going to get smoothed over as quickly as I'd like. Universal ID, anyone? Cause that's not a hacker's nightmare at all. 
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