The HBO Go app recently arrived on Sony’s Playstation 4 game console. much to the delight of many fans. However, those fans would not include the ones served by the nation’s largest cable provider, Comcast. When HBO subscribers fire up the app, they’re presented with a list of cable providers with which they can log in, and notably absent from the list is Comcast. So while many Comcast customers may indeed pay Comcast for HBO, they can’t access the service which should be included on many of their devices. The PS4 is not alone, either. Only recently did Comcast begin to support TV Everywhere apps on Roku devices. Amazon’s fire TV, and HBO Go’s year-old Playstation 3 app, are still being blocked.
It’s worth pointing out that the disconnect seems to be between Comcast and Sony, and not an attempt by Comcast to block HBO specifically or OTT services in general. None the less, customers have every right to be angry that they’re not able to access the services that they’re paying, and Comcast has yet to offer any good reason why they aren’t supporting a simple authentication process for the HBO Go app. Almost every other cable provider, including many which are much smaller than Comcast, do not have this problem, and Comcast customers are able to authenticate and watch HBO Go on other platforms like their computers.
As the net neutrality debate continues, and Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable awaits approval from regulators, this incident is one more on a long list that Comcast’s opponents can use to make their arguments. Because there is so little competition in the pay-TV market place, frustrated Comcast customers have little recourse, and thus Comcast has little incentive to address their complaints in a timely manner. Net neutrality proponents also point to this incident as evidence that Comcast and other large cable providers have too much power to steer customers towards or away from certain content sources and platforms by choosing not to support them.