HBO Go’s Sunday Night Crash: 4 Takeaways for Marketers


HBO debuted season four of the mega-popular epic fantasy series “Game of Thrones” on Sunday night. The debut should have been a crowning achievement for HBO. Instead, it turned into a marketing nightmare when millions of HBO viewers tried to watch “Game of Thrones” on the streaming service HBO Go. HBO Go’s servers crashed and angry viewers turned to the Internet to vent their frustrations.

Here are five takeaways from the HBO Go crash for marketers:

Be prepared.

HBO knew this crash might happen. A few weeks ago HBO aired the finale of another popular series, “True Detective,” and the exact same thing happened: Servers crashed and angry viewers tweeted their rage. With that in mind, it was surprising that HBO hadn’t created a plan to handle increased volume and even more surprising that they didn’t seem to have a plan in place to deal with the fallout if the servers crashed again.

Be transparent.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the crash was HBO’s responses to angry customers. They did not mention that their servers had crashed and did not give an estimated time for when their servers would be back up. Transparency is essential. Your followers want you to talk to them and help them, not tell short jokes while they suffer.

Viewing habits aren’t changing. They’ve changed.

Viewers of content are willing to pay for it but they want to view it in the most convenient ways possible. It’s surprising with the success of Netflix and Amazon Prime that HBO wasn’t prepared for the volume of people using its HBO Go service. It has to be assumed that they just didn’t anticipate how radically viewers’ TV watching habits have changed in the last few years.

Don’t give your fans what they don’t want.

Several of HBO’s responses let viewers know other places they could watch “Game of Thrones.” While on the surface this may seem a canny move, most of the people complaining only watch HBO via HBO Go (for various reasons) and did not have access to or did not want to watch using other services. Being told to watch the debut using a different platform only further angered viewers.

For a campaign that HBO got right, check out #RoastJoffrey.