This past weekend, HBO GO, the premium cable channel’s mobile streaming app, surpassed the 3 million download mark after less than two months on iTunes and the Android market, but the app’s features don’t make those numbers all that surprising. HBO GO allows current subscribers full access to its library of original programming. That includes older series, previously available only on pricey DVD collections, like Sex in the City, The Wire, and The Sopranos. But with the Hulus and the Netflixs of the world, can HBO GO bring anything new to the table?
The answer is simple: Yes. With Hulu Plus, you get a large number of complete series collections and select episodes from current network TV. Netflix thrives on older series that have ended and past seasons of current programming. Each serves a distinct purpose, but with some overlap. HBO GO provides something unique, namely HBO, which as everyone knows, isn’t TV. It’s HBO.
In all seriousness, HBO GO has a lot to offer. The Wire has seen a resurgence in recent years with some universities offering courses in the David Simon series. It completely passed me by when it aired originally from 2002 to 2008, and now I need a way to see the series so I can talk about Omar with people in the know. My options include buying the complete series on DVD, which retails for $200, and renting each individual episode from Amazon for $1.39 a pop. HBO GO gives subscribers what they essentially already paid for, free of charge.
On top of older shows, HBO GO features current water cooler favorites like Game of Thrones and True Blood. As an added incentive to download the app, subscribers can catch next Sunday’s episode of True Blood, nearly a week before it airs; the network made a similar offer for Game of Thrones.
The main drawback of HBO GO, however, is the “go” part. Currently, the app only works with mobile devices. HBOGO.com gives users access to the catalog through a computer, but there still isn’t an easy way to watch on a good, old-fashioned TV. I don’t know about you, but I want the broad swords on Game of Thrones actually to look broad. Both Hulu and Netflix offer several ways to deliver their videos to your set, but as HBO GO is still in its infancy, we may have to wait for the app to catch up. It is also worth noting that not all cable companies offer the service.
Ultimately, in the video streaming market, where companies compete with often similar content, HBO GO adds a ton of value to an HBO subscription. Seriously. If you have HBO and a smart phone, go download it now. You probably have some major catching up to do.