Only days after HBO launched its standalone HBO Now streaming service — and Sling TV began making HBO available as a live stream for its users — both new offerings were put to the test with Sunday night season premiere of Silicon Valley (and a few people who watched Game of Thrones). In the end, HBO Now came through without a crash, while Sling’s live stream showed improvement. But HBO Go, the streaming service that’s been around for five years, seemed to have the most problems.
While some HBO Now users complained to the @HBOnowhelp Twitter account about problems with accessing the service on Sunday night, we haven’t seen any evidence of a widespread crash or access problems like the ones that had previously plagued high-demand nights on HBO Go.
We were able to access Game of Thrones on our first attempt at 9:02 p.m. ET on Sunday and the video played without any noticeable stuttering, buffering, or lagging. We tried it again later in the evening and again had no issue accessing the new episode.
The only hiccup we experienced was with trying to watch the new episode of Silicon Valley. While the HBO Now menu showed it as being available immediately at 10 p.m. ET, trying to access the show via the “Series” menu resulted in error messages. By around 10:10 p.m., the new episode had been added to the front page of the HBO Now app; after that, we had no problems. Likewise, the night’s other season premiere, Veep, played without problem.
A week after Sling had to apologize for its failure to handle the increased streaming demand for the NCAA Final Four, the Dish-owned service noted that its first weekend offering live and on-demand HBO access was both an improvement and an indication that there is still work to be done.
“Overall, we successfully delivered a great experience to the vast majority of our customers,” wrote Sling CEO Roger Lynch, pointing to a reduction in the number of people seeing error messages.
Lynch acknowledged that Sling experienced a few “stumbles” on Sunday, “Most notably, we heard of (and experienced for ourselves) some Roku devices taking too long to load our app. Our teams are actively addressing this issue.”
Surprisingly, the HBO Go service is still apparently not ready for these high-demand events. The @HBOgohelp Twitter feed was full of complaints and apologies about users being unable to access HBO Go. There seemed to be a particular issue early in the evening for people trying to watch HBO Go via their Xbox One console.
Of course, HBO Now has only been around for six days, while millions of people around the country are using HBO Go (and sharing their passwords). While HBO has not said how many people have signed up for HBO Now, it’s likely that the older service has significantly more users.
Showtime and Starz are both looking to launch their own standalone streaming services. HBO Now has set the benchmark that any future service will be compared to.