HBO Go: The Difference Between Apple and Comcast

One tech company is beloved. The other isn't. Here's one reason why.


Here’s why Apple is at the top of America’s most-loved companies and Comcast nearer the bottom: Apple is trying to make HBO available to more people — and Comcast, well, Comcast sometimes gets in the way.

News that HBO Go would be available on Apple devices almost overshadowed Monday’s formal unveiling of the Apple Watch. “For years we’ve been praying for HBO to shrug off the cable companies and let us binge on Game of Thrones, and now that they’ve come through, it’s time to put up (our money) or shut up (and keep using our parents’ logins),” GQ said in reaction.

Comcast, meanwhile, has lately been buried under a chorus of complaints that it won’t let its customers stream HBO Go to another device — the PS4 gaming module.

“HBO Go is finally available for Playstation 4 users, huzzah! Unless you have Comcast. Then you’re shit out of luck, because the cable giant isn’t supporting it,” Gizmodo reported last week.

Gizmodo pointed out that Comcast customers can’t access the service on Amazon Fire, either, though they can get it through Roku devices. “We can’t know the behind-the-scenes politics and wrangling that’s preventing Comcast customers from getting the same deal as everyone else,” the website said. “From the perspective of human beings and not corporations it’s pretty damn lame. Access to HBO is one of the most justifiable reasons to pay for cable, and with the imminent launch of the cable-free HBO option, basically the only reason to bother with cable will be sports. Fix it.”

TechCrunch adds:

Comcast tells TechCrunch that their subscribers have many other ways to access HBO on other devices. A spokesperson points to the fact that Comcast subscribers 18 devices including the Apple TV and Roku can access HBO Go. A timetable was not given of when Comcast thinks it will bring HBO Go to the PS4.

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

Apparently Comcast does not see a the PS4 as a priority even though Sony has sold 20 million units since its launch.

Consumerist sees the Apple announcement as a victory for the net neutrality principles recently upheld by the FCC:

HBO didn’t just cut out — at least initially — the pay-TV companies that stand to lose subscribers who’ve only been holding on to basic cable packages for the sake of maintaining HBO access. Those same pay-TV providers control the pipes through which HBO Now will stream.

Without net neutrality, ISPs like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, Charter, Cablevision, and others could choose to block subscribers’ access to any content these companies choose to block. To a slightly less-evil degree, they could slow down HBO Now to the point where it’s not a good substitute for the HD picture you get through cable.

(NOTE: Under the conditions of its 2011 merger with NBC, Comcast is still currently bound by the 2010 net neutrality rules, which are effectively no different than the ones recently voted on by the FCC. That merger condition expires in 2018; hopefully the new neutrality rules will still be in place.)

Thankfully, the recently agreed-upon neutrality rules prohibit ISPs from blocking and throttling, meaning that HBO Now should be treated the same as HBO Go, YouTube, Netflix or that video your friend sent you of his baby throwing a cup of applesauce at a clown’s face.

We don’t know why Comcast isn’t (yet) letting HBO Go stream on PS4. But the fact that it is continually slow to make these kinds of adjustments signals either that A) the company is driving a harder bargain than other carriers to offer the service or B) it isn’t as nimble. Either way, Comcast doesn’t create any fans for itself.