On Monday, paywalled news service Bloomberg published a story headlined "HBO Frustrates Subscribers with Glitchy Tech," which was short on hard data regarding the HBO Max app's technical deficiencies, but did include several first-person subscriber accounts of things like persistent crashing of the HBO Max app on Roku.
However, the actual hard data shows that while HBO Max was clearly the buggiest of the major U.S. subscription streaming services for several months, complaints have stabilized to a manageable level in July.
According to Down Detector, the leading online tabulator of consumer tech complaints for streaming services and internet service providers, the HBO Max app has garnered 10 complaints so far in July for "problems and outages." Of those complaints, about 60% of them were tied to "video streaming" problems, with another 28% related to log-in issues.
Those numbers are still relatively high. Netflix, which is far and away the most widely distributed OTT app in America, tabulated just six complaints, around half of them described as video streaming issues.
Amazon Prime Video and Hulu also have bigger user scale than HBO Max, but each report less than half the Down Detector user complaints, with four each in July.
Disney Plus is on par with 10 complaints.
However, HBO Max's July performance looks better when you consider how many complaints it garnered in recent months--29 in May and a whopping 36 in June, with users furious over an "upgrade" that replaced Apple's tvOS player with proprietary WarnerMedia software that didn't work.
At that time, Andy Forssell, the executive who runs HBO Max for WarnerMedia, promised a "deep dive" to find out how the doomed “version 188.8.131.521” of the HBO Max app managed to get uploaded to consumers in the first place.
We asked WarnerMedia for any insight into any recent improvements its made within its app development team and process. Company reps had no comment.
The scrutiny on the HBO Max comes as amid increased usage of it. AT&T said during its Q2 earnings call last week that it added 2.8 million subscribers to the overall HBO ranks, reaching around 47 million. Of those customers, 12.1 million have signed up as HBO Max direct-to-consumer subscribers, with 43.5 million AT&T customers overall able to access HBO Max, regardless as to whether they actually use the IP-based service or still tap into it via linear means.
Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. His reliable mid-range jump shot, deft ambidextrous post-up game and tough interior defense have been criminally overlooked.
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