Amazon Instant Now Streaming HBO (for free*)

Dave Zatz —  May 22, 2014 — 15 Comments

hbo-amazon-instant

As announced a few weeks back, Amazon has begun streaming HBO content… without requiring an HBO subscription. The exclusive, multi-year deal has a few caveats, tho. First, we’re mostly talking back catalog content here, with a three year dark period after broadcast. So you’re still going to have to borrow that HBO GO password for Game of Thrones. But what a back catalog it is, with series like The Wire, Deadwood, and the Sopranos to keep you entertained for weeks, if not more. Second, you’ll need an Amazon Prime account — which currently runs $99/year. In addition to two day shipping, it features a variety of multimedia benefits including the Kindle “Lending Library” and all-you-can-eat video streaming… that has largely replaced Netflix in my household  this year given a decent and comparable library, along with the option to fill in the gaps with current season purchases. If only I could get my Fire TV to stop dropping the network connection mid-show.

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15 responses to Amazon Instant Now Streaming HBO (for free*)

  1. No this isn’t an ad. I’m a still a big fan of Amazon Prime despite the price hike and LaserShip. Not that it matters – my wife and mother have teamed up to prevent me from cancelling so I’m going to maximize my investment. Pretty sure Good Wife and Orphan Black were exclusive to Amazon and titles we enjoyed recently. I already have HBO GO, so the release doesn’t do much for me at the moment – but perhaps down the road. And no question this high quality content will be a boon to folks who haven’t seen the shows, don’t have HBO.

    In regards to Fire TV, my main use for Apple TV was Amazon streaming. That plus an expectation of a 2014 refresh led me to unload the aTV (on Amazon, ironically). In the last week, while watching Blacklist (I accidentally ordered the entire season, despite DVRing half), the Fire TV will say it’s lost the Internet connection and stop playblack… despite the Internet connection being solid. It usually got going again by futzing around in the UI, but once it required I pull the plug on the Fire TV to restore playback/connectivity.

  2. Also an HBO subscriber, so it doesn’t do much for me, but the more people that see The Wire, the more my casual references to Hampsterdam are enjoyed.

  3. Hopefully this will work better than HBO Go streaming on Roku 3 (Fios). It never seems to load anything and if it does it is at very low quality.

  4. “Hopefully this will work better than HBO Go streaming”

    Yup. The Amazon streaming advantage is better PQ, more reliability, and less buffering interruptions. IMHO, Amazon > HBO Go > Netflix.

    —–

    And what’s up with this item I found on the net yesterday:

    via HuffPo, I found some Random Idiot on the Internet™ with a chart claiming that Amazon has no peering deal with FiOS.

    I find this incredibly difficult to believe, considering that Amazon delivers me the best video digital fulfillment on FiOS, (via Roku.) I’m guessing this guy is just wrong. But if he’s correct, it means I don’t understand things I’m pretty damn sure I understand, and I’m curious what those things might be.

  5. I think there’s maybe only 7 or 8 people who understand these things. I’m not one of them. (By the by, I feel like either my TiVo or Verizon video quality has changed for the worse.)

  6. “I think there’s maybe only 7 or 8 people who understand these things. I’m not one of them.”

    This ain’t Quantum DVR Physics. It’s not that complicated.

    —–

    “By the by, I feel like either my TiVo or Verizon video quality has changed for the worse.”

    A couple of months ago, FiOS started deliberately throttling all AWS bandwidth without peering deals in place, in a drive to force peering deals. (There were a couple of good articles about this at the time.) This didn’t affect Amazon video, which is why I’m pretty damn sure they’ve long had a peering deal with FiOS. But it definitely affected Netflix, which led to Netflix signing a peering deal with FiOS. But Netflix fulfillment on FiOS still sucks, which is why I’m curious if the deal has been implemented yet.

    (BTW, none of this would be happening if we had a Democratic President who could appoint an FCC chair who would serve the public interest.)

  7. I mean my television quality, not streaming apps. Hm.

  8. “I mean my (multicast) quality, not streaming apps.”

    That’s odd. Most definitely have not experienced that on my end.

    If it’s a pixelation/macroblocking issue, I remember back from researching my original fibre installation that the FiOS signal supposedly came in a bit “hot” for TiVo’s, which could cause such symptoms. So if those are your symptoms, attenuators placed between the coax and the TiVo input may solve your problem. (TiVo diagnostics accessible via the UI can offer useful info.)

  9. Dave, like Chucky said, check your signal strength:

    http://support.tivo.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/150

    However, if you aren’t seeing obvious macro-blocking but just general fuzziness, perhaps you and Chucky can agree on which channel and what show to look at.

    @Chucky,

    I had assumed the obvious answer was that Verizon simply couldn’t block stuff from AWS since there was just so much there that their customers would complain or did complain. I presume the reason they’re getting away with it with Netflix for example is that Verizon customers did NOT rise up or call Verizon about the issue in any significant numbers. Most people just watched something else, or lived with it, or cancelled Netflix. So eventually Netflix had to cave. Reed’s expectation of user revolt did *not* come to pass, either here or at Comcast.

    However, you say Verizon was throttling AWS in general, which presumably negates that theory. Can you offer a link?

    BTW, did you read Reindeer’s comments on RII’s post? Whoah… this is definitely a rathole I’d love to go down.

  10. Yah, it’s not macroblocking — more grainy, less sharp I guess you could say. Reviewed the signal quality for FX and CW on the headless XL4 just now via Slingbox (92-94). I watch most television on the Family Room Mini. Will need to compare it to Master Bed Mini and TV as a first cut to see if it’s universal or specific to that location.

  11. Another tip on Amazon Prime audio. When Netflix and Amazon Prime share a title, I’ve noticed that the Amazon Prime version gets 5.1 audio compared to Netflix in stereo.

  12. “However, you say Verizon was throttling AWS in general, which presumably negates that theory. Can you offer a link?”

    Here was the original post that kicked off the furor, where a Verizon customer service rep confirmed (!) the practice. That post is not dispositive, however, for a couple of reasons.

    But since then, there have been multiple posts testing FiOS speeds from AWS both in the clear and using a VPN. Where the VPN hides the AWS source from Verizon, speeds are normal, but when the VPN is turned off, letting Verizon see the AWS source, the speed is massively throttled.

    The VPN evidence seems utterly dispositive to me. Verizon denies the charges, but I think they are lying via deliberately obscurantist language, or via other methods in the liar’s toolkit.

    (I considered enabling VPN via my router myself, which would highly likely get me satisfactory performance from Netflix. But the potential prospect of being permanently placed on the NSA “watch me!” list deterred me.)

    “I had assumed the obvious answer was that Verizon simply couldn’t block stuff from AWS since there was just so much there that their customers would complain…”

    MSO’s don’t care about no stinkin’ complaints. I thought we all knew that by now. Regulation or bust. If only we had a Democratic President, we could have a FCC chair who would stop such dirty dealing.

  13. Speaking of Netflix, if you haven’t seen the Summary Bug, you’re missing out…

  14. Speaking of Amazon Instant… Its almost a year since the ChromeCast came out, and despite rumors of them selling millions there is STILL no support for ChromeCast in the Amazon Instant app. I guess they were busy with the Fire, but still… Amazon Instant not being supported on as many platforms as Netflix is one of the reasons its an also ran. If Netflix is available at launch on the coming Android TV product and Amazon Instant is once again NOT then this will just reinforce their position. Amazon needs to get their act in gear.

    I can live without an adequate Amazon Instant app on my TiVo. I can live without it on ChromeCast. But it not being present on BOTH when Netflix is on BOTH (and my TV, and Apple TV and …) I can’t really live with. The service isn’t worth much/anything to me without being able to watch it on my TV.

  15. “But it not being present on BOTH when Netflix is on BOTH (and my TV, and Apple TV and …) I can’t really live with. The service isn’t worth much/anything to me without being able to watch it on my TV.”

    U’r doing it wrong. One needs a Roku connected to a HDMI input, since Roku is Switzerland, and it’s nice to have a ‘neutral’ among your options.

    You only potentially ‘need’ either a Chromecast or an Apple TV only if you need to ‘beam’ into one of those close ecosystem ‘beam receivers’. (If you had a Fire tablet, then you could use a Fire TV as your closed ecosystem ‘beam receiver’, but no one has a Fire tablet.)

    And FWIW, if I could only have Netflix or Prime, after long consideration, I’d pick Prime cuz of the noticeably better fulfillment. But it’s silly to not have both, due to neglecting a damn cheap box.

    (And to get really geeky, this is reason #47 why I like having a Mac Mini hooked up to the teevee. I can emulate AirPlay via software. I can open a browser tab mirroring my laptop via software. PC’s are cool in their flexibility.)

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