Take that Netflix, HBO Go app sees big growth

HBO Go has a hit on its hands with the company's iPhone, iPad, and Android app. Since the app debuted on May 2, it has won rave reviews and HBO expects to top the 3 million download mark this weekend.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
2 min read
Actress Anna Paquin (left) stars as Sookie Stackhouse in HBO's hit show "True Blood." John P. Johnson

If you don't believe cord cutting exists and that there isn't any competition between Netflix and cable programmers, then you needn't read on.

If on the other hand, you at least see the potential for Netflix to some day snatch customers away from the cable guys, then take note: this weekend HBO expects to see the 3 millionth download of the HBO Go app, which debuted on May 2, a company spokesman told CNET. There are 28 million HBO subscribers in the United States so the 3 million downloads would indicate that roughly 10 percent of the company's audience has tried out the app.

That's pretty good when you consider not all cable providers offer it (you listening Time Warner Cable?). The 3 million mark could be surpassed today at 9 p.m. during the season premiere of the popular vampire romp "True Blood."

HBO is dangling a carrot for "True Blood" followers to download the app, which enables subscribers of the premium cable network to watch more than 1,400 shows on iPads, iPhones, and Android devices. HBO Go users will get to watch next week's episode directly following the season premiere tonight.

The app, which has been applauded by critics as well as users, saw 1 million downloads in its first week. A big part of the app's success, beyond the slick way it organizes the material and the high quality of the stream, is the vast amount of content available. This isn't Hulu Plus, which skimps on the number of back episodes it offers from popular shows. HBO doubled down on HBO Go and gives a user access to everything in the vault, which conceivably risks sales of DVD box sets.

But HBO apparently is making an important stand and the unspoken pitch to subscribers is this: if you jump to Netflix you will lose access to some of the best written, critically acclaimed and most downright addictive television seen anywhere during the past 15 years. Check out just a partial list: "The Sopranos," "Sex In The City," "The Wired," and "Six Feet Under." The new crop of hits includes "True Blood" and "Game of Thrones." You can't get this fare in its entirety anywhere else on TV and certainly it will not appear on Netflix's streaming service anytime in the foreseeable future.

The app is a way for HBO to offer users the kind of convenience and on-demand viewing that Netflix provides. When it comes to comparing price, Netflix--which has seen meteoric growth in the past year and now has more than 23 million customers--is still far cheaper than subscribing to cable and HBO. What HBO is banking on is that the quality of content is good enough to maintain the audience.

I'm sure, if you're like me, you have friends who subscribe to Netflix as well as HBO. They gripe all the time how they want to cut the cable bill but..."give up 'Entourage?' Hell no."