First test passed: HBO Now streamed the “Game of Thrones” premiere without major incident

Daenerys’ encounter with her dragons didn’t go quite as well during the season premiere of “Game of Thrones.”
Daenerys’ encounter with her dragons didn’t go quite as well during the season premiere of “Game of Thrones.”
Image: HBO
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HBO has streamed its biggest show on its new standalone internet service, HBO Now, and it wasn’t a catastrophe. In fact, it was anything but.

It was a very different night than in March last year when HBO Go crashed under the heavy load from fans trying to watch the True Detective season finale.

Currently, HBO has two digital streaming services: HBO Now and HBO Go, which is the internet component you get when you subscribe to HBO via your cable provider. (You can think of HBO Now as a standalone HBO Go.)

But while HBO handles its own streaming for HBO Go, it smartly outsourced that responsibility to MLB Advanced Media, baseball’s digital arm, for HBO Now. That decision already looks like the right one.

There were a few minor hiccups this time around, sure, but the overwhelming sentiment—on Twitter, at least—was that the show streamed swimmingly for the majority of viewers:

I had to use the app’s search function to find it right at 9:00pm EST, though it appeared on the home menu screen a few minutes later. From there, the show streamed beautifully—on both mobile and desktop—with minimal buffering. If you experienced excessive buffering, it was probably the result of your internet connection, rather than a problem with HBO Now.

As The Verge noted, HBO Go seemed to have more problems streaming Game of Thrones than HBO Now did, which shouldn’t be surprising. Not only does HBO Go not benefit from MLB Advanced Media’s streaming prowess, but it’s likely that many more people streamed the show on HBO Go than on HBO Now.

It was a fairly quiet night for HBO’s customer service Twitter account for HBO Now, whereas the one for HBO Go was busy responding to questions and complaints. It seems that the HBO Go app was down for some time on Xbox One.

Apparently, all HBO needed to do was let someone else handle the app’s back-end.

All 30 million of HBO pay TV subscribers in the US get access to HBO Go, and while certainly not all of them (or the people borrowing and/or stealing their logins) watched the show last night, it will be a long time before subscribers to HBO Now are within the same order of magnitude.

With HBO Now, company executives have said they are aiming to reel in the roughly 10 million Americans who pay for internet but not cable TV. The service is currently only available through Apple’s App Store or as an add-on to Cablevision internet.

HBO’s bigger problem, it seems, is that Game of Thrones is the most pirated TV series in the world. Even the first four episodes of the show’s new season found their way onto torrent sites ahead of the premiere, apparently leaked by someone with advance press copies.

But as widespread as the problem is, piracy hardly cuts into HBO’s bottom line. Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, piracy data could help HBO decide where it wants to launch streaming services next, based on where downloading the show is most popular.

(Hint: It might want to look into Brazil.)