‘True Detective’ Finale Overwhelms HBO GO

Twitter lit up Sunday night as high demand for the live-streamed finale of HBO’s popular series, True Detective, apparently overwhelmed the premium programmer’s TV Everywhere service temporarily.

“Due to overwhelmingly popular demand for #TrueDetective, we've been made aware of an issue affecting some users. Please try again soon,” @HBOGO tweeted Sunday night at about 8:50 p.m. ET.

HBO has not yet commented further about the specific technical issues the TVE service faced Sunday night, when the app provided access to a live stream of the finale, or said how many users were affected, but it did cause some HBO GO users to lash out on Twitter. The running joke was that the HBO GO service, which added support for the PlayStation 3 console on March 4, was overwhelmed by password sharing, the sort of practice that HBO CEO Richard Plepler is mindful of but doesn't consider business-impacting in part because it exposes more users to HBO’s programming.

An example: “Hey @HBO GO if you don’t get this fixed quick I’m going to be forced to stop using my friend’s password to use this service!” Twitter user @gwestvar lamented on Sunday night. 

True Detective has been a  bona fide hit for HBO. The drama series that stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as Louisiana detectives investigating a grisly murder, drew 2.3 million viewers when it premiered on Sunday, Jan. 12 (with another 1 million viers tuning into the additional replay), the biggest audience for an HBO premiere since 2010, when Boardwalk Empire averaged 4.8 million viewers. On Sunday, the finale drew 3.5 million viewers for the 9 p.m.  run, and 4.9 million across three plays during the night.

Bandwidth management firm Sandvine weighed in on Monday, presenting a chart that tracked HBO GO traffic throughout the day and showed that HBO GO “suffered a significant and prolonged outage” on Sunday at about 9 p.m., just as HBO opened access to the live stream of True Detective.

When the service came back  online at about 12:30 a.m. ET Monday, HBO GO spiked for about an hour (the length of the episode), before dropping off, said Sandvine.

Typically, HBO GO doesn’t have a huge impact on broadband networks. Sandvine noted that its most recent Global Internet Phenomena Report found that HBO’s TVE service accounted for just 0.67% of downstream traffic on fixed broadband networks in North America, versus the 31.6% that Netflix typically generates.

“Even though it didn’t go as planned, [k]udos should go to HBO for offering live streaming to their subscribers. Let’s just hope time isn’t a flat circle, and that for their next livestreaming outing (Game of Thronesseason four premiere, perhaps?) they are able to sort out the kinks,” noted company spokesman Dan Deeth.