I want to like HBO Max, but that doesn’t allow me to.
Last year, HBO Max thrived on the content side, thanks to WarnerMedia’s decision to put big movie movies to service on the same day those movies hit theaters, due to theaters shutting down during the first few years. days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nicknamed “Popcorn ProjectThis decision was met with great support from the public and an equally negative reaction from filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan. At Tom’s Guide, we loved the decision and quickly put HBO Max at the top of our ranking of the best streaming.
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HBO’s core competence has been, and probably always will be, the quality of its programming. I was reminded of this on Monday January 3 when I started the HBO original series Max Station Eleven. This sinister, but slightly optimistic adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel’s Human History before, during and after an influenza pandemic wiped out 98% of the human population, got me hooked.
Or at least until the HBO Max app gets in the way.
HBO Max go down, go down, go down
HBO Max runs often enough that everyone will know that this is not an overnight steal operation running on Ethereum and hope. It’s just that when it breaks (and it does), users who are used to what’s going on think “oh, not yet!” This is a slightly unique problem, as outages of competing streaming services are much rarer. Netflix was one of many services affected by an Amazon Web Services outage on December 7, 2021, but those with enough knowledge knew it was not a Netflix bug but an Amazon issue.
HBO Max’s biggest hubbub, such as the June 2021 issues with the HBO Max Apple TV app, is getting wide coverage. That same month, we saw another outage.
@HBOMaxHelp having issues with HBO Max on my Android TV. It opens but only displays a black screen, no sound.December 21, 2021
Other times, these breakdowns receive less attention, such as reports of problems on Android TV December 21 which caused screens go black. HBO Max is aware of these issues and is working on them (as documented in Josef Adalian’s report in Vulture), but they keep happening.
To get a second opinion on this, I called Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore, who said it was all about frequency. Even though, he notes, “a micro-crisis may look like a macro-crisis in the moment”, it is “the difference between an anomaly or a trend, and each has its own acceptable levels.” . Because, he notes, “When I want to watch Cobra Kai, you better be there.”
This is the case I encountered on Monday (January 3), as I was finishing the first episode of Station Eleven to find HBO Max unable to play Episode 2 (around 12 p.m. ET). Check for yourself:
I just finished STATION ELEVEN E01 and want to watch episode 2, but I love trying to use HBO Max. pic.twitter.com/XeYPZL8Dn2January 3, 2022
I almost went back to the Yellowjackets (of which I had yet to start the second episode), but I didn’t want to. All I wanted was to find out what had happened to Jeevan and Kirsten at Station Eleven. So I fiddled around, then tried to wait, do little chores and other household chores.
Then I thought of something: I could try another streaming device. Yes, unlike most people, I have almost all streaming devices in my apartment. And since I thought the issue might be contained in the Apple TV app, I unplugged my Apple TV 4K and plugged in the excellent Roku Ultra (2020), and found out that HBO Max was working on it (Approximatly one hour after finding the first bug). I’m only sharing it to explain how weird these outages can be, not to provide a solution: no one should own both an Apple TV 4K and a Roku Ultra, unless they cover that industry.
At around 1:24 p.m. ET (when my streaming was paused for an unrelated person), I returned to check out HBO Max on Apple TV. And it worked. So overall it was a mini-crisis, but it hurts HBO Max’s reputation as much as anything. I was not surprised to have negative feelings about the service in my mentions. My mate Jason Million said “a year later and the app is still a trash”, while a online knowledge declared it “Truly the worst app known to the human race.”
Does HBO Max need to improve? How will it be?
While these crashes and errors are annoying to us, when do they become a problem for HBO Max? Like all streaming services, HBO Max must fight against churn – the model where subscribers cancel and renew their subscriptions, which makes the service’s revenue less stable. In my case, that won’t happen anytime soon, as HBO Max has a lot that I’m looking forward to.
Churn could happen for HBO Max if you hit a month or two in a row where you don’t see a reason to stay a subscriber. Because when that happens, it could combine with the aforementioned negative opinions on the site and give people another reason to leave. Dergarabedian agreed, saying that “it could lead to a tipping point for some to cancel because a glitch in the system leads to a light bulb moment on how they aren’t using a service enough – and it can happen for any streaming service. ”
This could happen more often, Dergarabedian said “among those who have reached the point where people are trying to figure out where to cut corners, if they are looking for a reason to leave,” to stay on a budget.
While I’m sure some at HBO Max won’t be happy to see me cover my own micro-crisis while trying to watch Station Eleven, that story isn’t the issue. The real problem is how many other people are going through similar problems. Just look at the “Tweets & replies” section from the HBO Max Help Twitter account, they’re there.
HBO Max customer support is doing their best. But being told to wait when other apps are running doesn’t seem like a good situation.
Be sure to check out my guides on the best streaming devices (and best streaming services) for more recommendations. Email me at [email protected] or leave a comment below with anything you’d like to see me cover in the streaming world – I might just answer it in a future installment.