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April 9, 2014

Will HBO Go’s failed Game of Thrones streaming drive fans to piracy?

TV show, sports and music fans are continually let down by inadequate streaming services.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Piracy is prolific and, to many, it’s a victimless crime. If you want to listen to a song or watch a movie, it’s easy enough to download a pirated copy for free.

At one point, CD albums were being sold in stores for more than £20, while CD singles could cost up to a fiver and rules were introduced to limit the number of tracks on those singles to three.

It’s understandable that so many people turned to piracy – they felt that they were being ripped off over a number of years.

Nowadays, though, you can easily download high quality songs, TV shows and films legally and, if you shop around a bit, you can get reasonable deals. So is this putting an end to piracy?

Well, no, not quite. Downloading is one thing, but live streaming services are still causing customers all sorts of headaches, as this week’s failed streaming of Game of Thrones demonstrated clearly.

Such was the popularity of the return of one of the biggest shows on TV, US broadcaster HBO’s streaming service, HBO Go, crashed due to "overwhelming demand".

Many UK fans had stayed up late in anticipation of the 2am airing of the first episode of season four, only to be met with blank screens.

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As fans of the show vented their anger on Twitter, HBO Go responded, tweeting: "Looks like there’s trouble in the realm. Apologies for the inconvenience. We’ll be providing updates, so please stay tuned."

I was not one of those people who had stayed up late to catch the show but I can appreciate their frustrations as, like most people I would think, I have endured similar experiences.

In March, I was looking forward to watching Scotland play Poland in a friendly football match. Interestingly, this game was not being shown live on TV but, for the first time ever, it was to be shown in a live stream on the Daily Record’s website. It was free to watch, which is great. The problem was that it didn’t work and the game was only available elsewhere on unofficial websites.

Again, fans were quick to take to Twitter and their mood was clear. One fan tweeted: "Whoever at @ScottishFA gave @Daily_Record the Scotland match seriously didn’t assess their capabilities. Made a right arse of it."

Another said: "Hopefully the last time the Daily Record are the only place to show a Scotland game. Shambles."

While one fan added: "What on earth made you think that you had the talent, resources and experience to pull this off?"

And another fan surmised: "Daily Record, you couldnae stream water ya jokes."

I felt their pain. So where does this leave the fans of music, TV shows, sports etc? They have no confidence in live streaming because they have been let down so often. What will they do and where will they go to enjoy the entertainment the love so much?

Steve Rawlinson, MD of web hosting specialists Tagadab, believes it is in the interests of the likes of HBO to prevent similar problems from happening in future.

He said: "The arrival of the new season of Game of Thrones was always going to be a major event because of the show’s massive global fan base and the amount of buzz surrounding the franchise. Unfortunately, the ‘overwhelming demand’ caused service disruptions and left many users of online streaming service HBO GO unable to watch the season opener.

"It’s not the first time that HBO Go has crashed due to user demand, so it’s disappointing to see this happening again and customers will be asking why the problems haven’t been sorted out. Game of Thrones was recently revealed to be the world’s most pirated show and if web users are unable to watch the show through the official channels, then they’re more likely to look to illegal sources online. There’s a clear commercial imperative for HBO to scale up for peak periods and increase capacity to provide a smooth and consistent user experience for viewers."

So, HBO Go, Daily Record et al, get it sorted!

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