A friend recently informed me that the HBOGO service had launched recently in the Caribbean so I decided to give it a go. To be honest, I was excited by this news as I am always encouraged when new services are expanded to support the Caribbean. The Caribbean is often a forgotten and misunderstood market that is ignored by US based businesses. This state of affairs in my opinion represents missed opportunities for these narrow minded companies and more importantly as a consequence leave many people in the region poorly or underserved.
I admire and prefer companies like Netflix and Amazon that engage with this region and generally take a more born global approach to their service offerings as opposed to the North American and European centric viewpoints of far too many other businesses. I wish more companies would take their cues from these two above and others like them. They don't always get it right but they do try and its clear that they build having global reach into their product plans from the outset.
Given, this reality I jumped on the prospect to try yet another streaming service and give HBO GO a shot even though I don't currently subscribe to any of there channels through my regular cable service and very rarely watch any of the episodes of their popoular series because I want to support services that also support my region.
However, I immediately was left feeling frustrated and disappointed and ultimately decided now wasn't the right time to sign up. Let me explain the reasons why.
Firstly, I couldn't find where to signup on the web because I was greated by this unpleasant welcome screen.
Apparently, the main site hasn't been updated to remove the geo-block and instead one has to use an alternative URL that is dedicated to Latin America. Wait, What? Why not just redirect to the correct page or better yet not have a block on the main site at all?
Yes, that's right. It took me 10 minutes to find the link after searching through my twitter stream. Let's not even talk about the fact that the Caribbean and Latin America are not equivalent. Anyways, assuming you get over this hurdle and actually find the link it turns out that you cannot sign up on the Web. Instead you have to sign up via the mobile app!
This seems silly. Why not allow me to sign up via the web? Especially since signing up via either the App Store or Play Store will mean that one will incur the 30% platform tax inaddition to the monthly subscription costs which is approximately 15USD for a much smaller HBO content library of 2500 titles. No Thanks. Thus making the service even more expensive in a cost sensitive region. Also I thought the trend was for companies to try to avoid the platform tax.
Pricing is a tricky subject and that alone won't rule HBO GO out as people ascribe different values to different services and in a free market it is the content owner or distributors right to try and maximize by responding to the price elasticity of demand for their entertainment offerings. So I could overlook the pricing strategy since quantity is not a conveyor of quality.
However, the straw that broke the Camel's back for me was the realization that their Apps have not all been updated yet and they are still blocking users based on the geography depending on the platform being used (To be honest not all too surprising given the website situation). In particular, the App for Amazon Fire was still locked to the USA region. Therefore, HBO was trying to tell me that after paying 15USD/month I wouldn't be able to watch the programming on my TV but instead I was going to have to accept being limited to my mobile phone/tablet or otherwise have to come up with a crazy workaround to stream from my computer to the television. You gotta be kidding me HBO.
HBO GO in the Caribbean is off to a start. Although, not a particularly good one. The launch was lazy and thoughtless (or limited by technical deficiencies in the platform). Nevertheless, I'm glad the region is supported and I hope HBO will listen, keep trying, and finally get it right. One day. Hopefully soon.