Bada Bing! HBO Go Hits 1 Million Downloads In Just A Week

Netflix and Hulu should probably be paying attention. HBO’s lone-cowboy strategy might be brilliant.

True Blood


HBO Go, the app from HBO that gives streaming access to 1,400 titles (including the big ones–The Sopranos, True Blood, and so on) hit 1 million downloads in just a week. The app is available to download for iPhone and iPad, as well as for Android devices.

That’s a pretty remarkable figure. By way of comparison, only a handful of apps have been downloaded faster. A gold version of Angry Birds hit the million mark within hours. Skype’s iPhone app also flew off the virtual shelves, hitting a million inside of two days. But apart from those and a few others, the million-app march is typically a slow procession, a marketing tune faintly trumpted in a press release months out from release. The Mac App Store considered it news that it had pushed out a million apps from its first day of existence–and that was for all apps in the entire store.

So what does this mean? It means we may have spoken too soon last year when we called HBO’s decision to spurn Netflix “short-sighted.” It’s true, as we said then, that it’s annoying to have to stream different channels via different apps. But by insisting on the quality of its own content and demonstrating that people will pay for it, HBO gets to determine its own pricing–in a way that booksellers, say, who have hopped aboard Apple’s and Amazon’s rigid e-book pricing schemes have not. HBO might lead the charge for negotiating better deals with an overarching streaming provider (like Netflix or Hulu) in the future; or it might simply manage to go it alone indefinitely, so long as its programming remains so damn good. “Netflix is a new money provider,” its CEO told us recently, puzzling over HBO’s lone-cowboy approach. Sure, but how much goes to whom?

The Hollywood Reporter and other outlets also learned some more information about the app yesterday. HBO co-president Eric Kessler said that HBO would experiment with exclusive in-app content related to the gadget-geek-friendly series Game of Thrones. One brilliant stroke: Right after the May 22 episode of Thrones airs on TV, the following week’s episode will be made instantly available on HBO Go, to further stimulate downloads and registration.

Kessler also reportedly made the case that HBO Go’s app would not make much of a dent in DVD sales, since half of people who buy HBO shows on DVD don’t subscribe to HBO, and 70% of those who buy them report that it’s important to them to own the physical product (it’s unclear what subset of these people are buying up cases of water and batteries for the coming apocalypse). THR also speculated that deals might be forthcoming with the likes of PlayStation, XBox, or Apple TV and other internet-connected TV devices. As Kessler put it: “We want to be on every platform.”

[Image: HBO Go]


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About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.