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HBO GO crumbles under the pressure of Game of Thrones demand

Just a few weeks after HBO GO crashed as subscribers attempted to watch the season finale of True Detective, HBO customers were again frustrated last night when attempting to watch the season four premiere episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. HBO indicated that overwhelming demand was the cause for the failure in performance in both cases, but it’s not clear if HBO took steps to improve performance after the original failure during early March. According to representatives of the premium network, HBO GO service was restored around midnight on the East Coast.

However, it’s possible that HBO was unable to anticipate how many people would be watching the streaming version of the episode online. Due to HBO’s relaxed policy about password sharing, subscribers often share authorization to watch HBO on digital devices with family and friends. HBO CEO Richard Plepler indicated that he wasn’t particularly concerned with the practice, but it appears as if the policy backfires on the company during highly anticipated premieres.

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Outpacing the season finale of The Sopranos in 2007, last night’s season four premiere of Game of Thrones became HBO’s most-watched episode of television with 6.6 million viewers. It’s likely that HBO will need to significantly increase capacity this week in order to stabilize the service before the next episode on April 13.

Interestingly, HBO is expanding a bit on digital distribution strategy this week by allowing both Xbox 360 and Xbox One users to watch the first episode of season four for free. Available on Xbox Video between April 8 and April 14, Xbox users don’t need to be a subscriber to a premium cable service in order to watch the first episode. Of course, the following episodes will require a subscription to HBO, thus the freebie acts as a way to generate new subscriptions for the network.