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HBO has a fight on its hands, if it wants to catch Netflix

HBo Go fight Netflix streaming TV
HBO/Helen Sloan
Fighting back against pirates.
By John McDuling
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Netflix is the king of streaming video in the US, and it’s not a huge surprise to see a gaping chasm between the web traffic it attracts and that generated by its rivals.

This chart from analysts at RBC Capital Markets only considers desktop traffic and excludes traffic from mobile devices and internet-enabled set top boxes, which people increasingly use to watch internet TV. But while the quantum of traffic would be much higher once this were taken into account, its not unreasonable to assume the proportions among various services would be broadly similar.

The really striking thing is just how tiny HBOs web traffic looks relative to Netflix’s. True, Netflix has surpassed HBO in US subscribers, but not by much. That said, it’s only fair to point out that Netflix is exclusively an internet service, while HBO is primarily accessed through cable.

This could soon change, because the Time Warner-owned premium channel is developing a revamped internet only, direct to consumer service of its own that is expected to go live in coming months. HBO Go, its existing streaming option for subscribers, famously struggles during periods of heavy traffic (for example, it crashed during the True Detective finale and during episodes of Game of Thrones last year).

Would it be able to cope under the weight of potentially millions of additional customers from the new internet service? Probably not, but there are already signs HBO is acting to rectify this. Last month, HBO’s chief technology officer departed the company, at the same time as it struck a deal to outsource some key aspects of its streaming infrastructure to MLB Advanced Media, the offshoot of Major League Baseball that already sells online video technology to the likes of ESPN and WWE.

Of course, given its hit shows are among the most pirated content on the planet, lots of other people not captured in the analysis above do watch HBO on the internet. Just not legitimately! Again, with the new internet product, HBO will be hoping to change this.

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