While testing the brand new Xbox apps — which also include Comcast Xfinity/Streampix and MLB.TV — we were a little miffed to find that certain cable providers, including Comcast, don’t allow users to access HBO Go from the Xbox 360.
HBO Go launched last year as the premium network’s big TV Everywhere play. It allows HBO subscribers to login with their cable or satellite credentials and access HBO content — including a vast back-catalog of HBO original programming — from a web browser, iOS or Android.
Consumer electronics makers are increasingly adding support for HBO Go to their offerings. Roku and the Boxee Box both added support last year and Samsung’s latest smart TVs also work with the service.
But here’s the problem: Not every cable provider is willing to allow their customers to access HBO Go from a connected device. When Roku launched its HBO Go channel last fall, DirecTV and Comcast customers were left out in the cold.
We had hoped, given Microsoft’s broader partnership with cable providers, that HBO Go would be more widely available. Sadly, we were wrong. DirecTV customers can use their Xbox 360 consoles as an HBO Go device (although DirecTV continues to ignore the Roku). But Comcast and Time Warner Cable — and probably others we’re unaware of — are not supported.
What makes the Comcast omission especially frustrating is that the Comcast is offering its own aforementioned Xfinity TV and Streampix app for the Xbox 360. That app allows users to access On-Demand and Streapix content from an Xbox 360, including HBO on-demand programming. There is some overlap between the HBO On-Demand content and HBO Go, but the offerings and interface are still distinctly different.
We’ve reached out to Comcast for clarification on these policies, but have not heard back as of press time.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
I’m a big supporter of HBO Go, in part because I think it’s an example of how content companies can offer users more flexibility in access without having to get rid of existing revenue streams.
The fact that I can access the entire first season of Game of Thrones on my iPad, iPhone, Mac and Xbox 360 — along with episodes of season 2 as soon as they air — makes me more likely to stay an HBO subscriber.
TV Everywhere — an initiative that Comcast helped lead — is finally starting to work. After holding out support for HBO Go, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision both signed on this year.
Cablevision), once a stalwart in the TV Everywhere space, now supports a wide-array of online content including access to CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network and more via its Optimum TV to Go offering. We should add that Cablevision customers can look forward to accessing HBO Go on the Xbox 360 and it looks great.
That’s why it’s so infuriating to still see cable companies pushing back on allowing access directly through the television set. Comcast clearly understands the value of allowing customers to access content on the Xbox. Moreover, Comcast isn’t even counting Xbox 360 streaming access against a customer’s 250GB bandwidth allocation — a sign that the company does view the Xbox as a mere extension of the regular cable box.
Why not allow HBO Go or other TV Everywhere solutions? Customers pay for the service. Customers can already access the content from a laptop or desktop attached to a TV set (or a 27″ iMac, which acts as the television set for my kitchen/living room). What’s the difference?
In any event, for the customers who can access it HBO Go on the Xbox 360 is a fantastic experience. The interface is sharp, picture quality is superb and the content is fantastic. We just hope the cable companies will come around and support it en masse.