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Summary:

Roku scored a huge coup with its release of the HBO Go app. But not everyone who subscribes to the network will have access to it. In fact, the two biggest pay TV operators in the U.S., Comcast and DirecTV, have decided not to support it.

hbo go roku

Roku scored a huge coup with the release of the HBO Go app on its streaming media box Thursday. But not everyone who subscribes to the premium cable network will have access to it. In fact, the two biggest pay TV operators in the U.S. — Comcast and DirecTV — have decided not to support the Roku app.

The HBO Go app just went live for users to download from the Roku Channel Store, and as pointed out by BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield, it provides a better experience than most cable VOD offerings for accessing HBO content. However, the service is only available to subscribers of participating TV providers, a list that doesn’t include Comcast or DirecTV.

With more than 40 million subscribers between them, those operators represent a huge portion of the overall pay TV market in the U.S., but they’re not the only operators whose subscribers can’t access HBO Go on Roku. Time Warner Cable and Cablevision still haven’t reached deals with the network to roll out HBO Go access on any of its platforms, whether it be PC, mobile or connected TV platforms. Altogether, that means that more than half of all pay TV subs won’t be able to use the Roku HBO Go app, even if they wanted to.

HBO Go has proven incredibly popular since it came out about a year and a half ago. The HBO Go iPad app, by itself, has been downloaded more than 5 million times — and has only been available since May. With that in mind, HBO wants to become ubiquitous on as many devices as possible.

When asked about the lack of support by Comcast or DirecTV, an HBO spokesperson emailed the following statement: “HBO GO has been a huge success with HBO subscribers. It therefore makes good business sense that affiliates will want to satisfy their subscribers’ desire to access this valuable product enhancement on all platforms.”

The decision not to support streaming on the Roku is also a little surprising because both Comcast and DirecTV have both made huge strides in opening up to new digital platforms. Comcast, for instance, unveiled its own iPad app, which includes on-demand video content from HBO and other providers — and is launching its own connected TV apps on Samsung TVs and the Xbox 360. Meanwhile, DirecTV is betting big on its Nomad set-top box for streaming pre-recorded DVR programs on laptops and connected devices. Both also support HBO Go streaming on web browsers and mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad.

Furthermore, there’s no contractual reason Comcast or DirecTV users can’t access the Roku app. A person with knowledge of the situation told us there are no amendments needed for those companies to authenticate with one device or another, and the decision to support different devices — or not — is up to the operator.

Roku expects to have sold 3 million streaming boxes by year-end, and CEO Anthony Wood told us last fall that about 12 percent of Roku users go on to cut the cord or cancel their pay TV subscriptions. All of which suggests that the number of HBO Go users with Roku boxes is probably pretty small, in comparison to the 28 million subscriber the network has in the U.S.

But non-support for one device that streams to the TV calls into question support for other connected TV apps that HBO and other networks have in the works. HBO Go will be one of the featured applications as part of Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox Live update, and expects to build apps for other connected TV platforms next year.

  1. Well that’s too bad. I have HBO but with Comcast so unfortunately I won’t be able to take advantage of this offer. Although, I think eventually Comcast and Direct TV will get in on it too.

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  2. Positive outlook for RIM outside of U.S. market … http://canuckreport.ca

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  3. Christopher Gioconda Friday, November 4, 2011

    What boggles my mind is that you can use HBO Go on your iphone/ipad/pc with Xfinity Comcast, just not the Roku…very odd!

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  4. Anyone know who at comcast to write and complain?

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    1. I was told to send an email (rather than a phone call) through the “CHANNEL LINEUP” option…the rep from Comcast told me that the people who deal with adding channels to the lineup are the same people who would have to deal with the Roku issue.

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    2. Send a tweet to @comcastcares on twitter:

      https://twitter.com/#!/comcastcares

      Leave a voicemail with the office of the president at Comcast HQ:
      215-286-1700 (say you want to lodge a complaint)

      Write a letter:
      Office of the President
      Comcast Corporation Headquarters
      One Comcast Center
      Philadelphia, PA 19103

      Send an email. Go to:
      http://www.comcast.com/corporate/customers/contactus/contactus.html
      and click on “Send us an Email”. Click on “Digital Cable”. Fill in your info and select “General Inquiry” and “Channel Lineup” (this was suggested as the correct place by a Comcast Rep on their support forums).

      Feel free to suggest other means of making noise about this.

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  5. i have been a loyal direct tv customer for over 15 years .i may not be one for much loger.dish is allowing streaming .dish gives you accessto hbo go and also to epix.what up with these people,not to mention that they now charge extra for everything you can think of .remember net flix . its time for some changes at direct tv

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    1. I agree!! I’m calling to yell at Direct TV. I might be switching too.

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  6. Their reasoning has to be that they don’t want to encourage use of T.V connected devices that may encourage cord cutting. That explains why they allow use of HBO go on ipad, computer, and phone but not on the T.V. I think that their reasoning is short sighted. I for one have Comcast and HBO and I will be considering cutting Comcast and going with a provider that offers HBO Go on the Roku if Comcast doesn’t get this worked out within a month or two.

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    1. That argument doesn’t hold true bc Comcast is launching it’s XfinityTV service on the Xbox in the near future.

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    2. They’re not stopping anybody from watching anything. Any of the shows that I could get legally via HBO Go on Roku I can download from RapidShare or via torrent. Its just that in the first case I have to continue paying my HBO bill on Comcast, while in the second I do NOT.

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  7. I will be leaving Directv for Dish

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    1. Me too if they don’t have something in the works. What could they possibly have against supporting this? Ignorance

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  8. Dail Whiteley Friday, November 4, 2011

    i went to the xfinity facebook page ant i got a quick reply saying that they are not doing this at this time but that i can see all of the great on demand stuff including HBO on an xbox 360 xfinity app thats coming soon. but i have a roku and not an xbox. does me no good.

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    1. HBO Go has FAR more stuff available than HBO On Demand on Xfinity. On HBO Go you can pretty much watch anything that has ever aired on HBO. Xfinity On Demand HBO has a much more limited subset of that. So while I appreciate the effort they are putting into the XBox 360 Xfinity app it does NOT replace my desire for Comcast to support HBO Go on my TV.

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  9. Yet another reason Comast sucks! It’s bad enough they have perhaps the worst customer service of any company in America. And now not to offer such a basic service to paying customers? Just makes them even worse.

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    1. as a small town in WV we pay the highest prices for Comcast and they won’t even give us ON DEMAND! It really sucks here!!!

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  10. There is already many very unhappy HBO Comcast-Roku owners voicing their frustrations, see the Comcast forums.
    http://forums.comcast.com/t5/XfinityTV-Online-Help/ROKU-HBO-GO/td-p/1100271

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