About a year ago we noted how Comcast has a weird tendency to prevent its broadband users from being able to use HBO Go on some fairly standard technology, including incredibly common Roku hardware. For several years Roku users couldn’t use HBO Go if they had a Comcast connection, and for just as long Comcast refused to explain why. Every other broadband provider had no problem ensuring the back-end authentication (needed to confirm you have a traditional cable connection) worked, but not Comcast. When pressed, Comcast would only offer a generic statement saying yeah, it would try and get right on that:
“With every new website, device or player we authenticate, we need to work through technical integration and customer service which takes time and resources. Moving forward, we will continue to prioritize as we partner with various players.”
And the problem wasn’t just with Roku. When HBO Go on the Playstation 3 was released, it worked with every other TV-Everywhere compatible provider, but not Comcast. When customers complained in the Comcast forums, they were greeted with total silence. When customers called in to try and figure out why HBO Go wouldn’t work, they received a rotating crop of weird half answers or outright incorrect statements (it should arrive in 48 hours, don’t worry!).
Fast forward nearly a year since the HBO Go Playstation 3 launch, and Sony has now announced an HBO Go app for the Playstation 4 console. And guess what — when you go to activate the app you’ll find it works with every major broadband ISP — except Comcast. Why? Comcast appears to have backed away from claims that the delay is due to technical or customer support issues, and is now telling forum visitors the hangup is related to an ambiguous business impasse:
“HBO Go availability on PS3 (and some other devices) are business decisions and deal with business terms that have not yet been agreed to between the parties. Thanks for your continued patience.”
Since every other ISP (including AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable) didn’t have a problem supporting the app, you have to assume Comcast specifically isn’t getting something from Sony or HBO it would like (read: enough money to make them feel comfortable about potentially cannibalizing traditional TV/HBO viewers). It’s a good example of how crafting net neutrality rules is only part of the conversation. It’s great to have rules, but they don’t mean much if bad or outright anti-competitive behavior can just be hidden behind half-answers and faux-technical nonsense for years on end without repercussion.