HBO GO Now Available On Roku

Dave Zatz —  November 3, 2011 — 29 Comments

roku-hbogo-channel-store

Less than a month after Roku announced HBO GO was headed to their set-top streamers… the service has arrived. And, at first blush, it looks to offer the same level of programming as found on HBO’s mobile apps — both original HBO programming, like Boardwalk Empire, and a selection of full length movies. I’ll dig in a bit deeper over the next few days, breaking down the content and evaluating the picture quality.

In the interim, it’s worth mentioning the decent amount of angst emanating from some Roku owners on their Facebook page. Folks want the option of subscribing to HBO GO without actually subscribing to HBO… the channel. Which seems entirely reasonable. Except, HBO will continue to make their big bucks through cable and satellite partners that they’d rather not alienate (by competing against). So, for the time being, cord cutters need not apply. Also, some wonder why we’d want HGO GO on another set-top if we already subscribe. Easy. Every episode, of every HBO series, on demand. The HBO channel(s), and even our providers on demand offerings, can’t match that. Plus, I’ve taken Roku on the road to more than one hotel (pic).

Now about bringing HBO GO to Samsung devices and the Xbox 360…

29 responses to HBO GO Now Available On Roku

  1. Also notice they’ve worked your provider’s logo into the app – see Verizon above. I’m reading on the forums that linking DirecTV and Comcast accounts isn’t working or set-up. I reached out to Roku for clarification.

    Haven’t heard back from Roku yet, but here’s the activation page.

    http://twitpic.com/7affox

    Notice no Comcast or DirecTV. Is this due to technical reasons or HBO requires some sort of payment for streaming device access that they’re not prepared to pay?

  2. Will have to check this out tonight when I get home; most interested in assessing the quality…SD, bad — HD, good. Hopefully there won’t be any issues linking with my Cox account. While this will be a nice to have on my Roku boxes, I more eagerly await the service on my Xboxes.

  3. I’m very interested in your PQ impression, Dave.

    When you watch HBO Go via Roku on a big flat screen, what’s the PQ like? Compare and contrast to Netflix HD.

    (Fire up something like Deadwood and look at long shots of skies and shots of quick motion for quickest PQ evaluation. That’s the first place you’ll start to see blocking and pixelation.)

  4. Based on comments in the Roku forums, it would appear that users are now able to link their DirecTV accounts.

  5. Correction. Orginally Roku users were having problems linking Dish accounts; however, it appears those issues have been overcome. Unfortunately, DirecTV users are left out in the cold.

  6. Christopher Gioconda November 3, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Very very disappointed Comcast/Xfinity isn’t supported, even though it is on the mobile/PC app. Lame! They’re one of the largest providers in the US!

  7. What is Comcast trying to accomplish by not allowing me to access the content that I pay for with my subscription to HBO through them? I for one will be cancelling not only my HBO subscription but my subscription to comcast if they don’t get this worked out.

  8. major letdown… “WOW!” is supported but “DirecTV” isn’t? LOL!!! sorry, it’s so pitiful that you just have to laugh… because my cellphone is smarter than a Roku.

  9. I bought a Roku on the promise of this app alone. I like it, sure, but without support for DIRECTV? Man, I’m seriously bummed. No Comcast? WTF? These are supported by HBOGO on iOS and the web. WTF?

  10. So ridiculously disappointing.

    http://support.roku.com/entries/20585347-does-my-television-provider-offer-hbo-go-on-roku-devices

    “HBO GO is an authenticated channel, which means you must have a current HBO subscription and a television provider that supports HBO GO on Roku.

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

    ATT U-verse
    Charter
    Cox
    Dish Network
    Massillon Cable/Clear Picture
    RCN
    Suddenlink
    Verizon FiOS
    WOW!

    If you do not see your television provider listed then they are currently not supporting HBO GO on Roku. We encourage you to reach out to your television company and request that they add Roku. We will update this list as often as possible.

    For more information regarding HBO GO, please visit the help pages at HBO GO here.”

  11. Chucky, My initial impressions regarding HBO GO PQ. Points of consideration: My Roku player is a Roku2 [XD] and the television is a 40″ Sony LCD. Additionally, I should preface my comments by noting that I only briefly watched a few minutes of “Inception”.

    It appears as if none of the content is marked as SD or HD, and based on my quick viewing, I would say that “Inception” is certainly SD. While the PQ seemed a tad softer than SD content from Netflix or Amazon, it was generally in line with SD content that I have seen from other streaming services.

    At this time, IMO, the gold standard for streaming quality is Vudu on the PS3 with Amazon (on Roku players) and iTunes on Apple TV trailing a little. I suspect that HBO GO content PQ will improve over time…as I think it will need to really be a top flight service.

  12. I think this is a bit of a game changed in (along with the ESPN iPad app) it doesn’t require that your connecting through your authorized broadband connection. I would say there’d have to be many people taking advantage of that by “sharing” accounts or allowing others to use an HBO Go account that you yourself might never utilize. It opens one more really great avenue for cord cutters to obtain premium content without paying for the content (even though not in a legal way).

  13. “I suspect that HBO GO content PQ will improve over time…as I think it will need to really be a top flight service.”

    I think I disagree. I think it’s likely not a technical issue to be “fixed”.

    Hulu throttles its PQ for reasons that make sense to me. And HBO is in much the same position as Hulu. Studios have different concerns than middlemen like Netflix or Vudu.

    Nobody wants to buy the cow when you give away the milk for free. If you’re a studio, you want to deliberately cripple your all-you-can-eat OTT offerings in some manner. I’ve always thought HBO Go lean-back would either throttle PQ or implement aggressive windowing. So throttled PQ seems like a feature, not a bug, from HBO’s standpoint to me.

    Think of HBO Go as similar to UltraViolet. When you buy a disc, the Blu-Ray is high PQ, and the UltraViolet rights are low PQ…

  14. Regarding picture quality… I watched about 15 minutes of a True Blood episode last night. It started throttled on a SD stream, but after a few minutes it bumped to HD. As to how good, I’m not ready to say. Certainly watchable on my 37″ bedroom LCD from maybe 8′ away. But beyond that I’ll need more time to watch and think – and I suspect Chucky is more demanding than I in this area. I’m thinking either jcm picked a title that is SD or it didn’t have enough time to spin up to a higher quality stream. Last month HBO said “most” titles would be 720p but they intend to move to 1080p and 5.1 “in the near future.”

  15. After giving HBO GO a more thorough look, spending more time with more content – including Men in Black and Rollerball [2002] – I was pleased to see the PQ is better than my initial impression. I would place the 720p ‘HD’ content on par with Netflix’ HD offerings but slightly below HD content from Vudu or Amazon. If the PQ, and audio, is set to improve from here, as noted by Dave, that is very good news indeed. Provided they don’t start limiting the quantity of content available over time, this looks to be a keeper channel/app.

  16. “Last month HBO said “most” titles would be 720p but they intend to move to 1080p … “in the near future.”

    As always, specs like that are pretty meaningless. Hulu and Netflix HD both deliver “720p”, but there is a noticeable difference in quality, since Netflix ships a higher bit-rate than Hulu.

    HBO can deliver 1080 lines for marketing purposes while still severely throttling the bit-rate and producing weak lean-back PQ, if they so choose.

    (I have no idea how HBO intends to handle this. They may indeed end up shipping a high PQ stream, though I have my doubts, but if so I predict that they’ll start windowing content like crazy, or moving from all-you-can-eat to a la carte.)

    “I suspect Chucky is more demanding than I in this area.”

    PQ obviously has different value for different folks. You don’t tend to hear a lot of complaints about the PQ on Hulu, even though it’s not really “good enough”. Hell, it seems a whole lot of folks were just fine with the PQ of the Starz content on Netflix.

    But I still think that while the median consumer might not care much about PQ, the median dollar spent on content does care to a certain degree about PQ.

    “Certainly watchable on my 37″ bedroom LCD”

    I don’t think “watchable” is the relevant keyword here. I’ll watch some DVD’s, which obviously have quite low PQ, for content that I’m eager to see which hasn’t been made available in a higher resolution form. And they’re watchable. I’ll watch a certain amount of SD content on Cable and Netflix for stuff I’m eager to see and that I can’t get in higher resolution form. And it’s watchable.

    But I go out of my way, (and pay more), to get those things I’m eager to see in a higher PQ medium.

    Also, of course, the size of the screen is the most relevant factor in where you start really caring about the bit-rate. A 50″ TV is literally twice as big as a 37″ TV, and so forth…

  17. Agreed… there are varying degrees of “HD”. In this specific sense, by watchable I meant decent maybe even good at first blush – certainly a more appetizing tier of quality than Crackle content. Of course, closer to a screen and/or a larger screen makes a difference. I’ve found Hulu TV streaming to be surprisingly good. But again, maybe I have lower expectations (or chose better titles)?

  18. Chucky, while I largely agree with most of your points, I would disagree slightly with the characterization of the PQ for Hulu Plus. I find their ‘HD’ offerings to largely be on par with the HD offerings from other services; particularly on the PS3. As an example, I have been watching Terra Nova and House via Hulu Plus and the PQ for those two shows is every bit as good as HD from Netflix or Amazon.

    At the end of the day, I group streaming services into three basic groups regarding PQ. The SD offerings (save VUDU SD which is about equivalent to most services HD) are generally unwatchable, or at least rarely chosen by me. The HD offerings are generally watchable and “good enough” for casual viewing. And when there is a movie I really want to see and appreciate the finer audio and video details, I either turn to Vudu HD/HDX or buy the BD disc.

  19. Well, had been waiting patiently for this. Really looking forward to it. And like many other Comcast/Xfinity customers that all came crashing down when I realized they weren’t supported. Crap!

    Comcast charges me $20/month for HBO. And they think they can get away with this?

    I LIKE Comcast. Apparently one of the few who do. They give me good internet speeds and a decent selection of HD channels. Sure they’re too expensive. But sh*t!

    So, I have trolled around and found the obvious ways to register your dissatisfaction. I have done all of these:

    Send a tweet to @comcastcares on twitter:

    https://twitter.com/#!/comcastcares

    Leave a voicemail with the office of the president at Comcast HQ:
    215-286-1700 (say you want to lodge a complaint)

    Write a letter:
    Office of the President
    Comcast Corporation Headquarters
    One Comcast Center
    Philadelphia, PA 19103

    Send an email. Go to:
    http://www.comcast.com/corporate/customers/contactus/contactus.html
    and click on “Send us an Email”. Click on “Digital Cable”. Fill in your info and select “General Inquiry” and “Channel Lineup” (this was suggested as the correct place by a Comcast Rep on their support forums).

    Feel free to suggest other means of making noise about this.

  20. Solidarity, brother! I just fired off a tweet on your behalf. By the way, looks like HBO is $4 less on Verizon – (with three months free at the moment).

  21. Dave tweets:

    “@comcastcares Why isn’t HBO GO available on Roku? You offer it on the iPad…”

    Rule #1 of Video Club is that mobile and lean-back are two different balls of wax.

    Rule #2 of Video Club is that mobile and lean-back are two different balls of wax…

    I’d be pissed if I were a Comcast customer, but I wouldn’t be surprised. AllVid ain’t here yet. There are no rules. Wild, wild west. In locales where Comcast has a monopoly, what’s in it for them?

  22. That’s why I mentioned Verizon’s better rates in the comment above (for folks who can partake)…

    As to the reasons, who knows. Roku referred me to HBO and I’m waiting a response. Will reply if I get one. In the meantime, calling out Comcast on Twitter is the least I can do for Glenn. ;)

  23. “That’s why I mentioned Verizon’s better rates in the comment above (for folks who can partake)…”

    Well, hell, if you’re in the limited Sweet Wire footprint, you ought to already be a customer of theirs.

    But the Sweet Wire’s footprint is limited, so there are places where Comcast has a monopoly or near-monopoly…

    Personally, I love Verizon’s wire for many reasons, but the CCI Flag is reason #1. It’s nice to do business with a wire company that isn’t part of a conglomeration with a content company.

    (Plus they drove Allen Iverson out of town. Plus, never trust a company that names their product “Xfinity”. Weird intercaps like FiOS are bad enough, but Xfinity is bottom of the barrel.)

  24. Also worth remembering that Comcast led the charge looking for Netflix “retrans” fees…

  25. I was really looking forward to this on the xbox 360, but you have me a little scared. I’m assuming that all will be well since there will be an xfinity on demand offering in the dashboard as well. BTW, any idea when we’ll see the new fall update? Thanks.

  26. “Rule #1 of Video Club is that mobile and lean-back are two different balls of wax.”

    Chucky, I am able to use HBO GO lean back on my Google TV. So somewhere along the line someone decided they didn’t like Roku but do like Google TV?

  27. “I suspect that HBO GO content PQ will improve over time…as I think it will need to really be a top flight service.”

    Without given out the goods, the picture quality will improve to 1080P with 5.1 audio. I have seen the native Samsung HBO Go application and is incredible.

  28. As promised by Insider, HBO GO has added 1080P support and 5.1 audio on Roku. The PQ is awesome! Bravo HBO.

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