Roku Brings HBO GO To The Living Room

Dave Zatz —  October 11, 2011 — 24 Comments

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We’ve been pining for HBO GO on our HDTVs for some time. While we’ve seen some hacks and support is supposedly headed to Samsung devices this fall, I’ve got even better news to share with you today. As all Roku models will receive access to a dedicated HBO GO app by the end of the month.

I’ve frequently declared that HBO GO is arguably the best value in entertainment — for those who subscribe to cable or satellite. Cord cutters need not apply. Included in the cost of an HBO subscription (~$20?) is online access to the complete and broad catalog of all original HBO programming. Think Deadwood, Sopranos, The Wire, and Boardwalk Empire. Further, there’s a solid selection of movies on demand, including some current releases in addition to the back catalog stuff you’d expect.

Basically, HBO GO will my make Roku infinitely more valuable than any of my other streaming boxes. For a time, anyway. As I suspect HBO, like Netflix, intends to leverage as many platforms as possible. It’s just too bad they’ve yet to consider an over-the-top, online-only subscription.

24 responses to Roku Brings HBO GO To The Living Room

  1. Per the comments on last week’s Microsoft post, it looks like HBO Go is coming to the living room via the Xbox too. I’m *almost* tempted to pick up the channel after years of resisting. But it’s at least $20 more on top of our existing Fios package. I might cave at $10, but not $20.

  2. But no commitment. Pay the $20 for a few months, catch up on many episodes of series you’ve missed and your daughter can watch kids movies on the iPad. $20 is way cheaper and more convenient than a box set of say The Wire.

    The Microsoft announcement(s) were vague as to launch, basically by the end of the year. Also, Xbox Live does require a $60 fee. As a gamer, I pay that. But they’re limiting uptake (via sales of new units) with that requirement. Hm, perhaps they lose money on the $200 360 hardware?

  3. A few days ago – after looking over the content that is available and the news that it would soon be coming to the Xbox – I made the plunge and added HBO to my Cox subscription in order to get access to HBO GO. By the end of this year, Xbox will provide me access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Epix, HBO GO, ESPN3, Crackle, Bravo, SyFY and Zune music & movies; pretty stout.

    With this announcement, Roku will now give me access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, Crackle, HBO GO, and Epix; also pretty stout. With Roku players in the bedrooms and an Xbox in the living room, my movie needs are covered pretty well. At this point all I need is Vudu on both devices and for Roku to implement some type of search feature across all video services – or at least the major ones.

  4. “$20 is way cheaper and more convenient than a box set of say The Wire.”

    Which is why I’m anticipating PQ throttled below Netflix HD “good enough” standards. But we shall see…

    (It’s kinda funny how just a couple of years after the HD mass rollout, we seem to be on the verge of a mass return to SD.)

  5. I subscribe to DirecTV and adding HBO to a programming package is $15.99. I know that’s not $10, but it’s not $20 either.

    I have it included in my super duper pack, but I’d like to know who is charging $20 a month for HBO.

  6. Chucky, I dunno… The picture quality on the iPad is surprisingly good and better than many others. We shall see. When it’s kind of “free” streaming, folks are possibly also more forgiving. Actually, I do have a HBO PR name – I’ll ping her on pq/res.

    Randy, I was just guessing. It seems many providers pimp movie bundles. For example, on Verizon FiOS I wanted to resubscribe to Showtime (for Dexter) and the price was $16.99 which seemed high. Turns out that’s the Showtime Starz bundle. I had to press to find just the Showtime plan which was $12. HBO usually runs a few bucks more a month, hence my upwards guesstimate. And I just confirmed HBO on FiOS is $17/month.

  7. “It’s kinda funny how just a couple of years after the HD mass rollout, we seem to be on the verge of a mass return to SD.”

    Which for me is a little disconcerting. While I love the idea of getting access to more content, I’m not so sure it is worth it if enough consumers decide – and the providers latch on to the idea – that SD is good enough. Really, what is the point if you spend the money on an HDTV (even if it is a smaller one in a bedroom) and a lot of the most desired content is in SD? Seems like a serious regression to me.

  8. “Which is why I’m anticipating PQ throttled below Netflix HD “good enough” standards. But we shall see…”

    Through the browser on my Google TV HBO Go picture quality is outstanding on my 47″ TV. It takes about 30 seconds or so, but the quality starts out just OK but builds to Netflix HD quality or better quickly.

    I’ve been watching HBO Go on Google TV for more than a month.

  9. “Chucky, I dunno… The picture quality on the iPad is surprisingly good”

    You don’t need HD video to look good on a tiny screen held close to your face. Heavily compressed 480 line video will look great on a cellphone. Tablets are the same basic equation. The only reason the industry went to HD in the first place was the inevitability of the technological shift from CRT’s to flat-panels, thus implying the inevitability of larger screen sizes in the lean-back.

    In short, you only need HD video in the lean-back.

    Hell, the late, unlamented StarzPlay ultra-SD via Netflix looked good on mobile devices.

  10. “Actually, I do have a HBO PR name – I’ll ping her on pq/res.”

    Ping her on bit-rate. Everything else is just marketing gobbledygook.

  11. Chucky, agreed it’s a small screen. However, I can still discern good from less good — comparatively, it’s solid. I inquired with HBO, we’ll see if they have anything to say.

  12. I would love to see HBOGo as another option on TiVo. It isn’t worth it to buy a Roku for it to me, but having it as additional streaming service would be nice.

  13. I currently watch HBO Go on my TV using an HDMI cable from my PC -> TV and I can say that it looks fantastic. Its great HD quality and I would say it looks better then almost all Netflix streams hooked up the same way.

  14. “Chucky, agreed it’s a small screen. However, I can still discern good from less good”

    I will assert that on a small mobile screen, all you can really discern is whether or not major artifacting is present in the compression, broadly whether the transfer is done from sharp source material or not, and whether or not you are getting buffering problems from your source.

    I will assert that on a small mobile screen, you can’t discern how a given video source will look on a big screen beyond such matters. Low bit-rates that can be made to look great on a small mobile screen will look not great on a big lean-back screen.

    (Remember why all the smart folks saved a few bucks by buying 720 TV’s for smaller sized flat-panels? It’s the same basic principle.)

    And finally let’s remember that even the Netflix “good enough” HD, which is the standard that I’d bet HBO Go won’t match, isn’t really all that good if you’ve got a reasonably sized TV for 2011. It’s just good enough that it’s not really worth complaining about for most people. But Netflix “good enough” HD in the lean-back still pales next to 1080 CableCARD MPEG2, or Blu-Ray, or Amazon TiVo downloads.

  15. HBO didn’t get as specific as bitrate, but they did say most titles on the Roku would stream at 720p – assuming ones Roku hardware and bandwidth support it. More exciting: “Our goal is to offer up to 1080p and 5.1 surround sound in the near future.”

  16. Dave, Ive been using HBO2GO for sometime now. This was DEFINITELY a great announcement, thanks as always for your inside connections. I have been using a dedicated laptop for a Home Theater PC and HBO2GO has played very well on my 42 in LCD. The Roku will make it a bit “neater”

    I have cut the cord now for over a year. Dont miss it, has been easy to adapt to. Still amazed at that fact.

  17. Excellent news Dave!

    As far as pricing, Comcast in my area is charging me $19.99 for HBO and $19.99 for Showtime. No bundle pricing. Like you say, steep. Enough that I generally cancelled HBO whenever there wasn’t a show on I wanted to watch (Curb say). HBO Go has changed that equation.

    I do wonder if its a bit like when you first got premium cable. Remember how you had to go to work all bleary eyed because there was all that stuff you could watch late into the night? But how after a while you kinda got used to it, and had maybe seen the obvious things and it didn’t seem that special anymore? I LOVE LOVE LOVE Deadwood, but hey I’ve already seen it. Maybe I’ll only subscribe to HBO in the summer months when there’s nothing on…

    Agreed that Tivo is being presented with a real challenge here (again).

  18. Verizon offers 3 months of HBO for free promos all of the time. You can usually sign up for the 3 months, then cancel before the promo ends. Then sign up for another free promo a month or so later. This will work perfectly with HBOgo as it will allow me to catch up on any missed shows during that time.

  19. I gave up cable when I got my ROKU player, but I sorely miss Bill Maher. I am a little confused- will I still have to have a cable company in order to get the HBO GO, or can I bypass cable and get HBO for $20. a month. For that price, welcome back Bill Maher!

  20. It looks like this is not supported/authorized by comcast

    The following is a list of television providers who have authorized HBO GO on Roku:

    ATT Uverse
    Charter
    Cox
    Dish
    Massillon Cable/CPI
    RCN
    Suddenlink
    Verizon FiOS
    WOW

  21. Comcast provides HBO GO to their HBO subscribers. Or at least they did when my mother-in-law last had Comcast service a few months ago. It works like this… the cable provider and HBO strike a deal to offer GO to their joint customer base. The cable provider has no input on the Roku side of the equation, that’s something HBO has decided upon and obviously has worked out the various licensing elements.

  22. HBO GO is up on ROKU in the NEW Channels section. I’ve been checking daily and it has appeared. Wanted you to get the scoop!!
    It does require an “Activation ” sequence like NETFLIX, so if yopu do not have a HBO acct on a provider, thats all folks!!
    Ron

  23. Tomski, you’re right. DirecTV and Comcast offer HBO GO… but *not* on Roku. Is that technical or contractual? Hm.

  24. How can I get free Internet and t.v . They got a magic jack plus for the telephone . They should have a magic jack for your tv and Internet services. cable people is ripping us off. Selling us 1970′s 80′s and 90′s sitcoms. I am tied of there mess. I don’t want to buy 50 year old
    t.v show

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