HBO Launches iPad App, Will Keynote Streaming Media East
HBO just released its HBO Go iPad app, and HBO Co-President Eric Kessler will show it off at his keynote at Streaming Media East in New York next week. We'll also be streaming Kessler's keynote—as well as the keynote by Ran Harnevo of AOL Video—live on StreamingMedia.com. Kessler's keynote is at 9 a.m. ET on Tuesday, May 10; Harnevo's is at 9 a.m. ET on Wednesday, May 11.
The HBO Go app also works on iPhone and iPod Touch, not to mention 20 Android devices, and is the mobile version of the HBO Go web service that launched last year but has been slow to take off.
[Scroll down to the bottom of this article to see our video review of the HBO Go iPad app.]
This marks a marked change in strategy for both HBO and its parent company, Time Warner, which has been slow to embrace over-the-top delivery of its content for fear of alienating cable providers. The web version and apps can be used by subscribers to Comcast, Charter, and other cable providers; ironically, Time Warner Cable isn't one of the providers offering the service. Subscribers need to enter their cable subscription information in order to access the HBO Go content.
Once they do, the app is gorgeous and easy to use. The home screen presents a scrolling wall of video stills, which occasionally flip to become video clips. Content is organized into movies, series, comedy, sports, documentaries, and late night, and includes a total of 1,400 titles. While the quantity doesn't match competing OTT services like Netflix, HBO's ace in the hole is its original content—series like Big Love, Treme, and Boardwalk Empire along with original films and stand-up comedy specials that aren't available anywhere else.
Series episodes are displayed for each season.
If you select a series, you then can choose from all of the episodes and seasons. When you select an episode or a movie to watch, you also get access to previews and extras, as well as Facebook and Twitter buttons.
Click on an episode or movie title and you get a synopsis, the "play" button, and the ability to save it to your watchlist.
You can also set up a watchlist with content you want to view later but don't want to have to hunt for the next time you log in. If you watch something but don't complete it, it automatically shows up in your watchlist the next time you open the app.
When you select "Watchlist," your watchlist appears across the top of the screen.
The app is the tiniest bit buggy; it kept asking me to create an account even though I'd done so, and occasionally it only fills up part of the screen. But when it works—which is 99% of the time—the video quality is great, and it's great to be able to watch this content away from the television.
The question, of course, is whether or not these kinds of offerings can help stave off further subscriber attrition. Last year, for instance, HBO and Cinemax (also owned by Time Warner) lost almost 2 million subscribers. With 19 million or so iPads now in use, though, HBO is counting on it and other devices to broaden its appeal and help retain existing subscribers.
"That device has changed television," Kessler told SiliconValley.com. And since you have to be a subscriber to gain access to HBO Go online or on the iPad, HBO can offer all of its content online without changing its fundamental business model, which relies on cable and satellite providers to help it generate its $1.4 billion in annual operating income.
In his Streaming Media East second-day keynote, Ran Harnevo of AOL urged the audience to get their videos shown on the widest variety of sites and devices. View the entire keynote here.
HBO Go represents the premium TV service's launch into the realm of TV Everywhere, and subscribers are flocking to get access on the iPad, iPhone, and other devices.
We'll also be posting videos from sessions and interviews during the show. Here's a preview of what else to look for at Streaming Media East next week.
Show includes new HTML5 track, Broadband Device Pavilion, and speakers from Blockbuster, Starz, NBA, Huffington Post, A&E, CBS, AOL, USA Network and Hearst Interactive Media amongst others.