HBO Now stream fails during key 'Game of Thrones' episode, enraging subscribers

Forget the "Battle of the Bastards," the massive, long-awaited set piece that Game of Thrones' current season has built up to. HBO Now may be facing a battle for subscribers after its stream failed shortly after the episode began and did not recover until at least 10 minutes after the episode was complete.

HBO Game of Thrones Kit Harington

Kit Harington, perhaps mirroring the feelings of many HBO Now subscribers. (Photo: Helen Sloan / courtesy of HBO)

Reports indicate HBO didn't even acknowledge there was a problem until 43 minutes into the episode.

Polygon reported that HBO apologized via Twitter for the outage, saying that network overload due to user demand was the problem. But the damage was done, with some subscribers voicing their anger on the social media service and vowing to cancel service.

"@hbonow @HBONowHelp it took you 43 minutes to make an announcement? Seriously delete your account," one person tweeted, referencing Hillary Clinton's recent tweet to Donald Trump.

"@hbonow @HBONowHelp hope to resolve ASAP? It's been almost an hour since the episode got put up but ok," another user tweeted.

HBO did not offer additional details about the outage, and the company did not immediately respond to questions about it. HBO's only additional post on Twitter related to the outage was to inform viewers that its stream was back up, at 10:12 p.m. EDT.

The network issued an official statement on Monday afternoon, saying that "HBO NOW issues were quickly recognized last night by MLBAM and the service was fully restored by 9:50."

MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) handles delivery of HBO's over-the-top streaming.

Users streaming Game of Thrones on two other OTT outlets -- its TV Everywhere component, HBO Go, and its linear channel on Sling TV -- did not report streaming issues during the episode.

HBO Now's periodic outages notwithstanding, spikes in traffic demand are a continued problem with many popular services. Sling TV suffered outages during key March Madness games, sparking similar outrage from sports fans.

In fact, prior to HBO Now's launch, HBO abandoned the owned-and-operated streaming platform it had developed for its HBO Go TV Everywhere service and signed with MLBAM to manage its streaming delivery.

With increasing numbers of viewers signing on to over-the-top video -- whether or not they're cutting cable completely -- it is likely time for top-shelf SVOD services to look this issue in the teeth and begin resolving such quality of experience (QoE) problems post-haste.

At the OTT Executive Summit in New York last week, panelists discussing QoE pointed to several issues with ensuring streaming quality. For one, each vendor involved in encoding, transporting and delivering online video has different methods of quality measurement and different standards of success. And smaller providers often don't have all the tools necessary to monitor and respond to streaming problems quickly.

"We take a lot of end customer tickets through our support channels … so we can look back into an analytics tool to figure out what happened to the user," said Sung Ho Choi, co-founder and chief product officer of fuboTV, during the panel session. "Other times we still do not have a good picture of what went wrong. We're still working on that."

For more:
- see this Polygon article
- see this Gizmodo article

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Updated Monday, June 20 with statement from HBO.

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