It Took 3.5 Hours for HBO GO to Come Back After the True Detective Debacle

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
March 10 2014 7:31 PM

It Took 3.5 Hours for HBO GO to Come Back After the True Detective Debacle

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HBO GO went down last night during the highly anticipated season finale of True Detective.

Image from HBO GO.

As True Detective fans were getting more and more hyped up on Sunday, HBO GO was rapidly approaching disaster. The streaming service had promised to post a stream of True Detective's season finale as the show aired at 9 p.m. ET. But instead the whole site went down. Needless to say, people were devastated. And angry. And hilariously angry.

The network equipment company Sandvine reported on its Internet Phenomena Blog about the outage. Sandvine's data shows HBO GO failing at 9 p.m. right as True Detective was posted, and coming back up between 12:30 and 12:45 a.m.. At that point there's a small, hour-long surge in traffic while night owls (and West Coast dwellers) presumably watched the episode. Then traffic drops off in the early morning before starting to climb again today. It's unclear exactly how much traffic HBO GO deals with on a regular basis or Sunday night in particular, since the company doesn't release figures, so it's difficult to say whether it should have been more prepared.

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As the Washington Post points out, people have been speculating that password sharing is partly to blame in HBO GO's reliability woes. Perhaps it isn't preparing for the correct number of users during high traffic times because its estimates of how many people use the service are too low. And this alleged naivete is corroborated by something HBO's CEO told BuzzFeed in January. Richard Plepler said, “It’s not that we’re unmindful of it, it just has no impact on the business. ... We’re in the business of creating addicts.” If the outage was caused by unexpected traffic, then it isn't exactly “no impact.”

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.