10:52 pm EDT, March 9, 2014

‘True Detective’ crashes HBO GO: Is it time to crack down on password sharing?

Tonight’s highly-anticipated True Detective finale brought HBO’s streaming service to a halt.

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If Cohle were here for this, he’d describe the HBO GO downtime as a flat circle. In fact, he may be the one behind this error screen that users saw for more than two hours on Sunday night. This tweet explains it:

This is not the first time HBO GO has crashed due to high demand for a particular episode. It was brought to its knees during the Game of Thrones season finale last May. With season 4 starting up in a few weeks and the show more popular than ever, we suspect demand will be high on GO once again.

More and more people have come to rely on HBO GO thanks to the endless ways you can access it. The streaming service is available through your web browser, Apple TV, Playstation 3, iOS, Android, Roku, and numerous other devices.

What makes it even more popular is that HBO does not have any rules preventing people from sharing one account.

HBO has infamously told the public that they’re okay with subscribers sharing passwords. “It’s not a fundamental problem, and the externality of it is that it presents the brand to more and more people,” HBO CEO Richard Plepler said in January, “and gives them an opportunity hopefully to become addicted to it. What we’re in the business of doing is building addicts, of building video addicts.”

HBO GO is “a terrific marketing vehicle for the next generation of viewers,” Pleper added.

But there’s one glaring issue that was made clear tonight: People who subscribe to HBO are screwed when GO crashes because those who are leeching off of their friends’ accounts are bringing the servers to a screeching halt.

Paying customers don’t have access to what they’re spending their money on because of the freeloaders. Is that fair?

HBO should at least set up a couple of rules for GO as they move forward. For example, there should be a rule that only two people can be logged into an account simultaneously. This will help control the number of people who are using GO at any given time, and HBO can design their server capacity to ensure a crash won’t happen.

Another way to fix this problem would be to simply add more servers to handle the load during times like these. That would take more money, so selling GO a la carte (in other words, without having to have a cable subscription) could raise the funds needed to take care of this.

No matter how HBO handles it, we’d like to see subscribers get what they pay for.

Note: This article was penned while staring at the HBO GO loading screen and waiting for True Detective to air its encore at 11 p.m. eastern.

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