HBO Go has long been viewed as a trailblazer in traditional television's move to offer premium video online, but Sunday night it got tripped up just as badly as the other guys.
A week after ABC and Aereo's separate live streams of the Oscars were plagued by buffering and errors, demand for the finale of HBO's "True Detective" series grew so heavy that HBO Go began to fail.
The recurring problems for online viewers trying to access the hottest online video when it's "live" raises eyebrows about whether the Internet and media and tech companies are ready to move to the next level of an Internet-delivered television service, an aspiration for several big players.
Sandvine, which runs fixed and mobile data networks worldwide and reports on what is taking place on them, released the following chart, which shows just how the demand toppled HBO Go's availability.
Sandvine charted traffic to HBO Go in the day preceding the "True Detective" finale and during its airing.
The chart shows traffic levels rising predictably as peak viewing hours -- late afternoon into evening -- roll around, but at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET on Sunday, just as "True Detective" began, the site had a sudden drop in traffic rather than the steady decline most nights experience into the wee hours.
Sandvine's Dan Deeth noted that when the service came back online roughly around 9:30 p.m. PT, usage spiked for about an hour -- the length of a "True Detective" episode -- before dropping again, "likely as exhausted subscribers went to bed."
The network's HBO Go app and Web portal provide unlimited access to movies and shows -- both current and past -- on demand, with access limited to people who already have a pay-TV subscription including HBO through a distributor like a cable company or satellite provider. Or those who have friends or family who share those credentials with them, a practice known as password-sharing that HBO's Chief Executive Richard Plepler has said doesn't bother him.
In a statement Monday, HBO said that because of "overwhelming interest" in the season finale, HBO GO experienced an excessive amount of traffic soon after 6 p.m. PT Sunday.
"The issue has since been rectified and the service is now back to normal," the company said.
Sunday night, HBO Go's Twitter accounted reported problems for some users.
If you were one of the lucky ones -- or dedicated ones -- who stuck through the errors online to watch the hotly anticipated last episode of the serial-killer thiller's debut season, keep the identity of the Yellow King under your hat, OK? Clearly, a lot of people who wanted to watch last night couldn't. Including me. No spoilers please.