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A Next Level Network

Is there a more renowned name in the world of television programming than HBO? Probably not. It’s one of those rare TV networks that has transcended the status of TV channel and become something else entirely. Something iconic. Something legendary. HBO is probably the premiere, best of the best network when it comes to providing quality entertainment. I think that most people would agree with that assessment.

Just think about it… name one television network that has put out more top-notch quality television, on a consistent basis, than HBO? They have built quite a reputation for themselves over the years, and they seem to be incapable of sullying that. Nearly everything they release, year after year after year, is all in the same general neighborhood of extraordinary quality.

Do I even need to run through a list of the kind of next-level content that I am referring to? Maybe some of you are less familiar with this giant of television. So, I’ll give you just a little taste of the kind of stuff that HBO does and has done for TV over the years. I won’t list everything, of course, because you would be here all day just reading a list of titles. But here’s a small preview of the kind of content you can expect from HBO…

firstly, of course, there are some of the most popular drama series ever created, like The Sopranos, Oz, West World, and Game of Thrones. Next, you can’t forget to mention the critically acclaimed and award-winning comedies, such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, Veep, Real Time with Bill Maher, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, The Larry Sanders Show, and (more recently) Silicon Valley and Barry. In addition to all of those huge shows (many of which were more cultural phenomena than they were merely series), there are tons of movies, sitcoms, and other programmings that HBO has made possible over the years. Are you convinced yet of the fact that there’s no other network who comes close to HBO’s prowess, at least when it comes to content?

A televisionary network as legendary and consistent as HBO, however, does not get created overnight. In fact, HBO is the oldest and longest-running pay-based television service in the US, having been available on the air since November 8, 1972. As of 2016, HBO was valued as a company worth nearly 2 billion dollars and is reported to have had around 140 million subscribers as of 2018. It is easily one of the top media entities in the world. It’s pretty wild to think that this media behemoth all started as the brainchild of one cable pioneer, Charles Dolan.

In 1965, Dolan won a franchise that would allow him to build a cable TV system in the Lower Manhattan area of New York City. He did so and called it Sterling Information Services. Later it became known as Sterling Manhattan Cable. And later still, none other than Time Warner Cable. This was the first underground cable television system ever put into place in the United States.

Sterling’s company lost a good bit of money in its first shaky years. Running cable underneath the streets of New York, it turned out, was far from cheap. It could cost as much as $300,000 per mile, in fact. And in 1971, Sterling’s entire base of subscribers totaled 400. Not enough money was coming in to cover the costs of operation. Sterling started to believe his dream may have been doomed.

That was, of course, until Sterling in collaboration with others finally had a brilliant idea to survey people around the US on whether they might be interested in simply paying per channel instead of the traditional package cable network deal. An overwhelming majority of citizens expressed interest, and, so, Sterling and his partners began work on what would come to be called the Home Box Office, alluding to the broadcast of movies that it was to specialize in. And the rest, as they say, is history. HBO was born, by one mad cable genius in New York City almost single-handedly. Sterling probably never saw the media landscape of today coming. But, luckily, HBO has changed with the times and provided its subscribers a couple of different options for streaming content.

From an Underground Cable System to Wireless Streaming Giant

One of those, perhaps the most popular option, is, of course, HBO Go. For lovers of HBO on the go, that is. HBO Go offers HBO content to be streamed over the HBO Go website, or through its companion app. Today, we’ll be taking a look primarily at the site, though, seeing as the content on this site is often far too great to be viewed on a small smartphone screen! We already know that HBO Go has the content box checked, but how about the site’s functionality, design, and all that jazz? Well, let’s log in and take a look, shall we?

From the moment you land on HBO Go’s member’s section, you will probably be impressed with the look and feel of the site. It is designed well. Which is something you would probably expect from a $2 billion dollar network, right? At the top of the page, you will find a very large banner, a carousel of HBO Go’s featured content. Different suggestions of shows to watch will cascade, one after the other, giving you a quick and easy way to browse new content.

Some of the options are even special playlists of sorts that HBO Go has created for its users. For instance, at the time of this review, one such list is dedicated to HBO’s 2020 Golden Globe nominees (spoiler alert: there are a lot of them!). Another, to give you a bit of a better idea, is a time capsule list of the best HBO content from the early 2000s. HBO Go gives its users plenty of different ways to enjoy its wide array of quality content.

Below the banner, you will find a few categories to choose from, with thumbnails spanning the page horizontally (if you’ve used Netflix before, you will be familiar with the style). You’ll find a Coming Soon section, where you can view trailers for soon to be released content – as well as a monthly update of what’s new to the service and what’s leaving. This is a truly novel feature, and I wish more streaming services would do the same. It is often very frustrating to try and anticipate which of your favorite shows are going to be leaving a streaming site. I appreciate HBO’s transparency on the matter. Everybody appreciates a good heads’ up, right?

Next, you’ll find a section labeled “Obsession-Worthy Drama Series.” Here, HBO Go has featured shows like Watchmen, Succession, His Dark Materials, and Chernobyl. Next, find Must Watch Comedies, Just-Added Movies, Last Chance (Movies leaving this month), and Documentaries, Kids, and so on. Speaking of HBO Go’s children focused content, this might be the best streaming service out there for all ages. It is the only place, for instance, where you will be able to stream Sesame Street.

In addition to its many great award-winning series, documentaries, available movies, and solid site design, HBO Go is also the only place where you will be able to find some of the best standup comedy specials ever recorded. There was a time, remember, before Netflix began pumping out a new special every other week when HBO was the spot for standup comedy. Getting an HBO standup special was, for many comedians, the dream. And HBO is the only place where you will be able to find many of the most classic comedy performances of all time. So, if you are a comedy nut, HBO Go is a must-have.

One Very Annoying Flaw

Not everything about HBO Go is brilliant and perfect, though. Like every streaming site, HBO Go, too, has its flaws. And, unfortunately, the most glaring one that I can think of is also one of the most annoying flaws of any streaming site that I have ever used. And that is the fact that the media player automatically minimizes when something new auto-plays. So, kicking back and relaxing while binging your favorite series is out of the question. You’ll have to keep your computer nearby, at the ready, to keep clicking “full-screen” over and over again, with each new episode that plays. This is extremely annoying if you ask me, but maybe I am just really lazy.

That being said, though, it is one flaw in the company of so many strengths. HBO Go is an awesome streaming companion to any cable or satellite subscription. Stream it on your computer or take it with you on the app. No matter what life throws at you, HBO Go will be ready.

Likes & Hates:
Tons of high-quality, award-winning original shows
Lots of classic movies
Great site design (layout, look, feel)
Monthly updates of what is going to be available
Mobile friendly (app)
Exits out of full-screen mode when auto playing
Must have cable or satellite subscription to use