Comcast Still Blocking HBO Go On Roku (And Now Playstation 3), Incapable Of Explaining Why

from the crash-the-gatekeepers dept

For years, HBO and Time Warner have refused to give people what they want and offer a standalone streaming video service, because they’re afraid of shaking up their cozy, promotion-heavy relationship with the cable industry. Instead, HBO’s Go streaming service has been made available on desktops and a growing number of devices, TVs, set tops and game consoles — provided you log in with your traditional cable subscriber information. It’s a half-measure, and availability to this day remains a little fractured.

Case in point: Sony this week finally made HBO Go available on the Playstation 3 (despite HBO Go launching in early 2010), but not the new Playstation 4. The new Playstation 3 version works for most cable operators in the country — except for users on Comcast. Why not? Comcast doesn’t really give an answer other than to say the massive (and soon to get much larger) company only has so many people available to ensure TV Everywhere authentication works on new devices:

“With every new website, device or player we authenticate, we need to work through technical integration and customer service which takes time and resources. Moving forward, we will continue to prioritize as we partner with various players.”

Which might almost sound like a reasonable explanation — until you realize that HBO Go on Roku hasn’t worked for Comcast users since 2011, despite Roku being one of the most prominent Internet streaming devices available. Apparently, it’s a matter of priorities? Comcast’s argument for being allowed to acquire companies is always that these acquisitions make them bigger and more efficient. So apparently, getting simple TV authentication to work takes Comcast years longer than every other pay TV operator because Comcast is simply too big, efficient and fantastic?

Now, Playstation 3 users have joined the Roku user chorus, asking Comcast in their official forums why they can’t use HBO Go, and are being greeted by the same silence Roku owners have enjoyed for years. I’m not sure you can get away with calling this a net neutrality violation (I think the term is mutated to the point of uselessness anyway), given HBO Go on Roku will work if you have Comcast broadband — but get HBO from another pay TV provider like Dish. Still, it’s fairly curious how Comcast’s own Internet video and on-demand offerings (which include HBO content) tend to take priority.

The problem illustrates once again how the TV Industry’s “TV Everywhere” mindset fails because it winds up taking value away from the user, not delivering it. It’s also another shining example of how HBO should shake off its fears, embrace innovation, leapfrog the gatekeepers and release the standalone Internet streaming app everyone has been clamoring for.

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Companies: comcast, hbo, roku

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Comments on “Comcast Still Blocking HBO Go On Roku (And Now Playstation 3), Incapable Of Explaining Why”

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30 Comments
Jay (profile) says:

The power of...

” I’m not sure you can get away with calling this a net neutrality violation (I think the term is mutated to the point of uselessness anyway), given HBO Go on Roku will work if you have Comcast broadband — but get HBO from another pay TV provider like Dish. Still, it’s fairly curious how Comcast’s?own Internet video and on-demand offerings?(which include HBO content) tend to take priority.?”

Ah yes… Exploitation. Buy your competition, use their services, ignore customer service, and nickel and dime your captive audience until the government regulates. Meanwhile, the services are carbon copies of what you can do online with nothing to actually compete against their business model while more money flows to shareholders wanting more money in the short term.

Amazing how monopolies work to screw over the public.

MortalCassie says:

Re: LESS competition

It is not true that there is about to be less competition. You might not have seen the episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver since you can’t get HBOGo for your Roku, but even if Comcast buys up TWC, it is not taking away any competition. They do not exist in the same markets. They don’t compete with each other at all. That’s why they can charge whatever they want.

And it makes sense if you think about it from their point of view. You could spend $50 ish dollars on a Roku, and watch the HBO that you’re already paying them for… OR they could make it not available, and so for you to watch HBO in the other room… well now you need a cable box. And that’s what… $10 or $15 dollars a month that now goes to them. They don’t mind giving it to you on your lap top or your mobile devices. Those you actually take with you ON THE GO. But not a roku. That’s on your TV, in your house, where one of their boxes can go.

JEDIDIAH says:

Makes me glad...

This kind of thing makes my glad to be the sort of user that avoids HBO entirely. If they have something I want, I wait until it’s out on DVD. Much better experience that way.

Even before I cut the cord, I avoided HBO because of their lackluster and incomplete movie selection. For their original content, it’s cheaper to just wait and buy it on DVD/BD.

A nonny mouse says:

Eh???

What sort of arse-backwards system requires the Cable Company to authenticate devices in the first place?

Surely the more logical way to handle this would be for HBO to ensure their app works on whatever devices they want it to work on, and any authentication of users required happens behind the scenes (from the user’s perspective) between HBO and the internet provider?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Eh???

any authentication of users required happens behind the scenes (from the user’s perspective) between HBO and the internet provider?

That’s not really possible*. HBO cannot authenticate you with a TV provider unless you give them some authentication information (username and password) to pass on to the TV (cable/satellite) provider. Since you said “between HBO and the internet provider” you may be only considering the case where the person’s ISP and cable provider are the same company, but that is by no means everyone.

Even for those cases, silent authentication would be far from perfect. For example, whether I’m authorized depends on who I am, not where I am. The only way HBO could authenticate you with your ISP is via your IP address, but somebody else could be on your home wifi, or you could be somewhere that isn’t your home, so that technique really isn’t adequate even for that subset of people.

For everyone else (like me, for example, cable internet and Dish TV) HBO has no idea who to even try to authenticate with, let alone how, unless the user tells them.

* as long as HBO insists that you subscribe to HBO on TV in order to get HBO Go, and if you didn’t know about that, that would explain your confusion

TryingToMakeThingsClearer says:

Re: Eh???

It has nothing to do with authentication to the Internet Provider. You pay to watch HBO through your cable provider. It just so happens that in many occasions the cable provider and the Internet provider are the same.
The cable provider is not authenticating the device. I don’t know where you get that impression.

Let’s use a PS3 for example. Any user with a PS3 can run the HBO Go app. That doesn’t mean they can actual access the content. What has to happen first is the authentication in the background that you mentioned, but it is between HBO (who is providing the content) and your cable provider (who can prove to HBO that you are paying for that content). The Internet provider plays no part in this equation. That is why I can use Comcast as my Internet provider, use Dish Network as my cable/satellite provider, and a PS3 to access HBO Go. HBO will reach out to Dish Network for authentication, not Comcast in this scenario.

Anonymous Coward says:

HBO... yes, the program you *HAVE* to pirate until a DVD/DB is released...

As a European I know HBO only as the content provider you have to pirate until they deign to release a DVD or BD. Same goes for Netflix: You want to watch House of Cards? Then you either invest in a VPN and a US credit card or you fetch the show from some streaming page.

Eventually both will release DVDs or BDs and you can buy them (something I always do, for the shows I watched beyond the pilot), but they sure don’t make it easy to get access.
How about a service, where I can get access to all those shows in a timely manner for, say, ten to 15 USD/month. No DRM or other silly limitations which are basically just annoying and get circumvented in minutes. I’ve no issue with watermarks to track down those who publish the media. But anything beyond that, ie. anything that limits my playback options, because DRM scheme A is not available on platform B, would be a no-go for me. I’m not paying money to not be able to watch the stuff wherever I want.

But, judging from the slow progress on the music industry front, I’d say the movie/TV industry is a good decade away from realizing, that fighting your customers is not a sustainable business plan.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: HBO... yes, the program you *HAVE* to pirate until a DVD/DB is released...

Sure, but doing that requires a significant extra investment and adds additional burdens, which might be hard to overcome. For example: some services won’t take pre-paid credit cards. Which means, you just paid 50 USD and can’t use or refund them. Not to mention, that using a VPN proxy might limit your ability to watch in a higher definition, due to size, speed or latency constraints.

Therefore the VPN+foreign credit card option is not really an option at all. Because what the service is effectively telling me is: go away, we do not want your money. Don’t forget, that I would have to pay the VPN and credit card upfront, ie. before I know, whether a given show is to my tastes.

I simply don’t understand, why there isn’t an option, to just buy a season of some show without any funny restrictions. Just take Steam or the Humble Store as an example: a few clicks from anywhere on this world, and you get the content. In the case of the Humble Store often even without any DRM at all. And in the remaining cases with acceptable forms of DRM like watermarked executables and one-time registration with Steam or something similar.

Michael says:

Easy to watch on Roku however

Eventually they will stop blocking it. There are some providers that are offering HBO as a standalone option with internet only services. I use Roku as an alternative to cable TV using tips here http://thecreativealternative.com/alternatives-to-cable/ but also pay for Netflix, and will buy HBO GO as soon as it’s available with my Uverse subscription.

Beahota says:

comcasts restriction isnt to roku or ps3 or anything in particular, their restriction is to any device that easily connects to a TV. They think that if you want to watch hbo on the TV you should use on demand or an actual hbo channel. Neither of which have as much content. Comcast fucking sucks, going back to DSL when game of thrones ends for the season.

SWEETIEGAL than Hates comcast says:

comcast

SO..Anyone know if Comcast subscribers could file a class action suit for not providing the FULL services that we PAY them for every month? Just a thought. I feel they are withholding part of the services I PAY TO HAVE. Seems like a theft to me and I’ve heard of winning lawsuits for much less than this:( Oh well, til something is done, I guess it’s time for us comcast customers to get a lifetime supply of Vaseline or KY. Ewwww.

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