An outage Sunday night on HBO GO — the premium cable network's online video stream — during the season premiere of "Game of Thrones" outraged fans and marked the second time the service crashed during a key program (HBO GO also stopped during March's season finale of "True Detective").
The online streaming service went down shortly after the program began at 6 p.m. PST, sending viewers in droves to vent on Twitter.
According to TechCrunch, the outage affected nearly a million viewers, and the service was downed by an overload of interest. Service has since been restored.
An article at Geeko System pointed out that there are more people tuning into shows on HBO GO than the network has subscribers — meaning that the collapse in service was likely caused by subscribers sharing their login information with friends and family. And while Forbes.com reminded readers that the practice is probably illegal, Geeko System said the outage revealed a flaw in HBO's business model rather than a failure in its stream delivery.
Painting all HBO GO users as moochers not only fails to take into account the paying users who might depend on streaming instead of a DVR, but also ignores the vast number of people who would be perfectly happy to pay for HBO but who cannot afford to pay for regular cable on top of it, or just don’t want to.
Meanwhile, an article that sprang up on Heavy.com shortly after the outage pointed to speculation that HBO purposely decided not to upgrade its streaming service to dissuade subscribers from sharing information with those who haven't signed up:
While some blame high demand for this latest HBO outage, others have posited that HBO intentionally lets the HBO GO system get overwhelmed in order to boost public awareness of their shows, or as a marketing technique to get people to sign up for HBO service of their own.
HBO CEO Richard Plepler flatly denied that assertion in an interview to the Verge.
The cable networks video stream suffered a similar outage during the season finale of "True Detective" in March. The suspect in that case was, again, rampant password sharing.
For its part, HBO issued several apologies during yesterday's much-anticipated "Game of Thrones" premiere, including a few tongue-in-cheek references to the show.