HBO's new standalone OTT service, HBO Now, launched two weeks ago, but some subscribers are still struggling to access the service due to a muddled signup process and vague or nonexistent help from HBO itself.
The decided lack of detailed help from HBO was noticed right away by Quartz, which on April 8, the day after the service launched, noted that the premium network "wants to make sure you blame someone else." Citing a Re/code story on the service, the article said that a help section entry on HBO Now's website, now "apparently deleted," addressed buffering issues by telling subscribers to contact their broadband Internet service provider if they experienced sign-in or playback issues.
But some viewers' issues signing in to the service have nothing to do with their ISP.
For some iOS device viewers, this error message is as far as they've gotten with HBO Now. (Screenshot)
One part of the problem is that HBO doesn't handle billing directly for its service. Signups currently are limited to Apple TV and iOS users, who subscribe and pay for HBO Now using their iTunes accounts. Cablevision Optimum customers can also sign up for the service. Subscription will open for other kinds of devices, such as Android devices and streaming players, just over two months from now, though it's unknown at this point how viewers will sign up for HBO Now on those devices.
Another part of the current confusion in signup is a wordy yet anemic help section on the HBO Now site. For example, in the "Getting an HBO Now Subscription" page, potential subscribers are given these instructions: "If you are signing in on an Apple TV, you will be prompted to enter an email address and you'll get a mail that will walk you through the registration process. On all other devices, you'll complete registration as part of your initial sign in. As part of registration, you'll select an email address to use as your username and a password."
Some viewers complained that they never received the confirmation e-mail.
"I originally signed up using Apple TV, but never got a registration screen for email and password, only one to associate my iTunes email address with it. …Nothing worked, been trying to get this to work since the launch of HBONow," one user complained on the Apple support forum on April 11, four days after the service launched.
The directions also don't mention that the email address needs to be the same one users have on their iTunes account, while the password must be different. It's almost the opposite of the authentication process used for HBO GO, for which pay-TV subscribers accessing the TV Everywhere service must put in the same username and password they use to access their pay-TV account online.
When users go to a page on HBO Now's help section titled "Basic Troubleshooting for Trouble Signing In," they are faced with a long block of text filled with complex instructions and a series of bullet points that essentially deflect the cause of signup problems to either the user or their ISP.
"In many cases, restarting HBO NOW and trying to sign in again will fix the problem. If it doesn't, you should contact your subscription provider's customer support for assistance," the troubleshooting page concludes.
Fortunately, Apple's support forum posted a workable solution to the signup problem on April 8. Viewers still having trouble signing on can follow the steps listed here.
But others are still caught in a signup mire between iTunes and HBO.
"According to HBO NOW's help section, once I purchased HBO NOW through appleTV I was supposed to get an e-mail to create a unique account login for the app. I never got any e-mail," a user on the Apple support forum posted on April 11. "I did get an iTunes reciept for the subcription (so the pruchase went through) but neither HBO nor Apple sent me any information on registering my account. As is, I can't login. The app tells me I have a subscription but "fails to connect" to the iTunes store to validate it."
A subscriber on the support forum noted on April 19 that HBO Now Support is informing viewers by e-mail that they must sign up through iOS devices--like iPhone or iPad--not their Apple TV. That's not a workable solution for some. As another user noted, "I own an Apple TV because it's better than Roku and the Amazon equivalent wasn't out yet. I don't own any i-Products, so I guess I'm going to have to mooch someone's HBOGO account still.
"They really need to fix that."
HBO representatives were not immediately available to comment on the issue.
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