As Netflix flip-flopped on DVDs and boosted fees, and Hulu failed to land a buyer, and cable providers hyped long-promised streaming, only HBO actually put together a digital hit.
It's HBO Go, the first comprehensive mobile TV service. Channel subscribers can stream any episode in its library for free—from Boardwalk Empire to Oz—to computers, tablets, and smartphones. That's 1,600 hours of programming (and growing), 10 times more than digital cable's HBO On Demand. HBO's goal is to reduce the churn that typically follows a season finale. "More is more," says, yes, Alison Moore, HBO's senior VP of digital platforms. "On the iPad, all you have to do is [swipe your finger] and you see everything else HBO has done." she says. "That's a pretty powerful reason not to disconnect." Early surveys show just that—nearly three-quarters of HBO Go's 5 million subscribers stick around, and 85% of them say they watch more HBO programs because of the service.
Moore's team keeps seeking ways to deepen fan engagement. Viewers of the medieval fantasy series Game of Thrones can access a ticker with maps, family trees, and other bonuses. It works: Fans often rewatch episodes using the feature. HBO is also developing social connections online, including interactive tools that display fans' profile pictures and filter comments by show or even word (killed was big in Boardwalk posts). "It's important for us to make people feel they're entering a special place," Moore says. The Wire's Omar Little knew why: "The game's out there, and it's play or get played," he said. "That simple."
Photograph by Eric Ogden