‘Game of Thrones’ season finale sets record as HBO’s most-viewed episode ever

Despite disappointing many longtime fans of the show, the “Game of Thrones” series finale set a new record for HBO as the most viewed episode in the network’s history. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the episode reached 13.6 million viewers during its initial airing on Sunday night, which rose to 19.3 million once replays and early streaming was included. The record was previously held for a short time by the season’s penultimate episode, which drew in 12.48 million viewers when first aired and a total of 18.4 million during its first night.

The eighth and last season of “Game of Thrones,” which premiered in 2011, averaged 44.2 million viewers through Sunday after streaming, on-demand, DVRs and replays were added in, or 10 million more than the season 7 average, said HBO .

The previous HBO series finale with the most viewers was “The Sopranos” with 11.9 million viewers, though that was in 2007, before streaming and other digital services took off.

 

Winter is coming for HBO NOW subscriber growth

Fan reaction to Game of Thrones‘ final season may be mixed, but the show has been undeniably good for HBO’s network — and for its over-the-top streaming service, HBO NOW. The Season 8 premiere drew in 11.8 million live viewers and 17.4 million viewers across all platforms on the day of airing, as well as a record number of sign-ups to HBO NOW, which in March was reported to have 8 million subscribers. But the show’s finale airs this Sunday, and HBO is set to see a huge exodus of streaming subscribers, as result.

According to new research from Mintel released this week, HBO NOW users are twice as likely as those from any other streaming service to cancel their subscription when a specific show ends.

The only service that performed worse on this front was YouTube Premium. And that’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, given that its subscriber base also includes YouTube viewers who want to go ad-free —  not just those who are there for its original content.

The new findings are telling in terms of how heavily HBO has been relying on Game of Thrones to grow its streaming platform over the years. In addition, the metrics indicate potential struggles ahead for HBO parent company WarnerMedia’s forthcoming streaming service. Due to launch into beta later this year, the service will be led by HBO content. But without new episodes of Game of Thrones, it will have to rely on other popular shows, like Westworld, to pull in viewers.

However, even though Westworld is HBO’s second most-watched show, Game of Thrones has triple the number of viewers.  

The network is clearly aware of the negative impacts to its streaming platform the end of Thrones will bring. It already greenlit plans for a Game of Thrones prequel, which is now filming. And it has other spinoffs in the works, too.

The prequel may not attract the same fervor as the original, but it could help bring viewers back. In the meantime, however, HBO NOW is set to see a significant number of subscribers cancelling after Sunday night.

Mintel also found that HBO NOW doesn’t have any significant traction beyond consumers who already subscribe to four or more over-the-top streaming services. These users pay for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu, then threw HBO into the mix in order to gain access to Game of Thrones. They’re not necessarily loyal to the network itself or interested in its other programming. And at $14.99 per month, HBO NOW is a fairly expensive addition.

With new steaming services from Apple and Disney poised to launch in the months ahead, a number of consumers will likely shift their HBO NOW dollars over to the newcomers instead, or simply pocket their savings.

The researchers also believe that smaller, lesser known streaming services could benefit by positioning their offerings as a more affordable alternative to HBO NOW.

This is especially true because the study found that consumers’ ideal price point for a “perfect” streaming package — one that had everything they want to watch — would be around $20 per month. Today, that number affords them to purchase maybe two or, at the most, three services. A fourth service, like HBO NOW, has been more of a luxury expense — a must-have while Game of Thrones aired, perhaps, but not one consumers will feel comfortable paying for when the show ends.

The new report stops short of making a firm prediction on the number of cancellations HBO NOW will soon see, though.

“I’m hesitant to put a direct number on subscriptions or cancellations,” says Mintel analyst analyst Buddy Lo. “We know from the research that nearly 20 percent of HBO NOW consumers say they would cancel service over a specific program, but we didn’t definitively ask if it was specifically Game of Thrones that they will cancel over,” he tells TechCrunch.

Of course, it’s hard to imagine what other program HBO NOW subscribers would have had in mind when responding.

Mintel isn’t the only firm to dive into the potential impacts to HBO NOW subscriber growth resulting from the end of its flagship series. Last month, Second Measure pointed to historical trends that help to forecast the big subscriber drop ahead.

For example, HBO NOW subscribers jumped by 91 percent in the U.S. during Season 7’s airing, but steadily declined over the six months after it ended. Only 26 percent of HBO NOW subscribers who made their first payment during Game of Thrones season 7 were still subscribers six months later, the report said.

It also found that HBO NOW subscribers were far less loyal than those on other streaming services including, in order, Netflix, Hulu, and even CBS All Access — the latter thanks to the Star Trek: Discovery fan base.

And neither HBO NOW nor CBS All Access came anywhere close to the retention numbers for Netflix and Hulu, which have 6-month retention figures of 74 percent and 60 percent, respectively.

Second Measure also found Netflix and Hulu had far more exclusivity than rivals — meaning, a larger share of subscribers who only paid for their service and no others.

For Netflix, this figure was 78 percent. HBO NOW, by comparison, only had a 27 percent share of subscribers who were exclusive to its platform.

The firm predicts loyalty to a single service will continue to decline in the years ahead as consumer demand for streaming content grows.

The increased competition will make it even harder for HBO to fare well on its own. That’s why it makes sense WarnerMedia is tapping into its other properties to instead create an HBO-led “bundle” that feels more compelling than HBO alone.

Sharp will resume selling its smart TVs in the US this year

Good news for U.S. consumers, the smart TV market is about to get more competitive after Sharp announced plans to resume selling TVs in America before the end of this year.

The Japanese firm quit the U.S. in 2015 when crumbling finances threatened its very existence. It was bailed out by Hon Hai Precision — the Taiwanese manufacturing firm better known as Foxconn — in a $3.5 billion deal that attracted controversy inside Japan, where a home-backed agreement had been preferred by many. Still, under new management, it is seeking expansion to continue its rebound.

Sharp sold its license to China’s Hisense when it exited, and this week it said that it has struck a deal to regain it, although the terms have not been disclosed.

That relationship is certainly frosty: Sharp sued the Chinese firm, which is state-owned, alleging that it had put Sharp’s badge on sub-quality products. The suit was dropped at the beginning of last year. Sharp said at the time that it intended to return to the North American market itself, and now it has the deal it required.

Sources told Reuters that the firm may also be considering other markets in the Americas beyond the U.S, Hisense also acquired its rights for that region, but the U.S. market is obviously the headline expansion.

For now, Sharp said it will bring TVs to market that combine 5G, AIoT — a buzzy acronym that stands for ‘artificial intelligence of things’ — and 8K/4K picture quality. We’ll have to wait for more on what the exact product line-up will look like.

CBS says streaming services & Super Bowl helped it achieve record revenues in Q1

CBS credited its direct-to-consumer streaming services in helping it achieve double-digit revenue growth and  record quarterly revenues in Q1, along with the gains that came from hosting Super Bowl LIII and those from affiliate revenue. The network said its over-the-top service for cord cutters, CBS All Access, combined with Showtime’s direct-consumer subscriptions grew 71 percent year-over-year — its biggest quarter of growth ever.

Both services are continuing to grow in Q2, as well, thanks to The Twilight Zone on CBS All Access and Billions on Showtime, the company noted.

In addition, CBS is benefitting from other streamers’ needs for content. It spoke of gains from increasing sales of its content to providers like Amazon, Apple, and Netflix, for example. The latter has just debuted Dead to Me from CBS Television Studios, on its service. And CBS is producing Diary of a Female President for the Disney+ streaming service, which begins filming this summer.

The market’s appetite for over-the-top streaming TV services has helped CBS succeed in the cord cutting era, thanks to its investment in streaming platforms and original content for subscribers, like The Twilight Zone, The Good Fight, Star Trek: Discovery, and other shows.

However, the Super Bowl played a huge role in boosting subscriptions this quarter — the company even noted that CBS All Access had its “biggest quarter of [subscriber] growth ever.”

But CBS may be able to retain subscribers who joined for the Big Game with its other original programming, like The Twilight Zone which was the most-watched original premier, for instance.

It also touted upcoming new originals, including a dark comedy starring Lucy Liu called Why Women Kill from Desperate Housewives’ creator Mark Cherry; a true crime drama called Interrogation; and a brand-new Star Trek series starring Patrick Stewart.

CBS said it’s now working to take CBS All Access to more international customers. Having already launched in Canada and Australia, it’s coming next to Latin America and Western Europe.

In February, CBS said it had reached its goal of 8 million streaming subscribers two years early — a figure which included Showtime’s direct-to-consumer subscribers, as well. It said it was aiming to reach 25 million domestic subscribers by 2022, up from its early plan to reach 16 million by that time.

Earlier this week, Hulu announced it had topped 28 million customers, for comparison’s sake.

CBS didn’t update those numbers, but said the company still feels “very good” about achieving them.

What CBS can’t project, though, is how its growth may be impacted by the arrival of the other new streaming services coming to market in the months ahead, including Apple TV+, Disney+, the WarnerMedia streaming service, and perhaps even Jeffrey Katzenberg’s mobile streaming service Quibi. As all will rely on subscriptions, consumers may end up having to pick-and-choose which ones to pay for — as few can afford to subscribe to all.

It did say that it believes Apple TV+ will help it to grow, however, because it will help distribute CBS content to more customers, and boost its own subscriptions as a result.

“Given our company’s strong programming pipeline and our early-mover advantage in direct-to-consumer, we feel very confident about CBS’ leadership position in a media landscape that values must-have content above all else,” noted Joe Ianniello, CBS President and Acting CEO, in a statement. 

CBS reported earnings of $1.37 per share in Q1 on $4.2 billion in revenue. It was projected to earn $1.36 per share on $4.3 billion.

Hulu tops 28 million customers, unveils new shows and a ‘binge watch’ ad experience

Hulu has now grown over 28 million U.S. customers, including 26.8 million monthly paid subscribers and 1.3 million promotional accounts, the company announced this morning as part of its annual presentation at the digital Newfronts in New York. In January, Hulu had 25 million total users, including both paid and promo accounts, and 20 million this time last year. The streaming service also today unveiled its new slate of shows and original programming, alongside other content deals and a new “binge advertising experience” that’s designed to be less intrusive.

On the content front, Hulu announced an expanded partnership with Marvel to bring two new live-action series to its service in 2020.

Though Marvel owner Disney is preparing to launch its own direct-to-consumer streaming service later this year, Disney’s majority ownership of Hulu is proving to be an advantage as it can shift some of the more adult-oriented Marvel properties to Hulu, instead of the more family-focused Disney+ streaming service.

That seems to be the case for the new Marvel series Marvel’s Ghost Rider, aka Robbie Reyes, who’s described as a “quintessential antihero, consumed by hellfire and supernaturally bound to a demon.” The other, Marvel’s Helstrom, features Daimon and Ana Helstrom, the son and daughter of a powerful serial killer, who tracks down the worst of humanity.

Ghost Rider is exec-produced by Ingrid Escajeda, who will serve as showrunner, along with Paul Zbyszewski and Marvel’s Jeph Loeb. Helstrom is exec-produced by Loeb and Zbyszewski, who will also serve as showrunner. 

The two new series join existing Marvel properties on Hulu, including Marvel’s Runaways, and other more adult-oriented fare like Marvel’s M.O.D.O.KMarvel’s Hit-MonkeyMarvel’s Tigra & Dazzler Show, Marvel’s Howard The Duck, and the planned special event, Marvel’s The Offenders.

Hulu also today announced a new multi-year, multi-show partnership with Vox Media Studio, (Momofuku founder) David Chang’s Majordomo Media, and Chrissy Teigen’s Suit & Thai Productions, to develop premium food-centric programming. One of the first shows will feature Chang and Teigen and will focus on family cooking; another documentary series will tap into Vox’s Eater, and its knowledge of the best restaurants in the world.

Tiegen also scored her own two-year deal with Hulu to create original programming that could range from scripted content to original talk shows. (In other words, what Oprah is to Apple TV+, Tiegen is to Hulu, in terms of having free reign.)

Meanwhile, with the newly greenlit series Nine Perfect Strangers, Hulu hopes to have a hit like HBO did with Big Little Lies, as the series adapts another of author Liane Moriarty’s novels for the screen.

Also like Big Little Lies, David E. Kelley and Nicole Kidman are again involved, the former as co-showrunner and co-writer along with John Henry Butterworth, and the latter starring in a lead role as the director of a boutique health-and-wellness resort promising healing and transformation to the aforementioned nine strangers. Kidman’s production company, Blossom Films, which exec-produced the first season of Big Little Lies, is also involved along with Made Up Stories and Endeavor Content.

As previously reported, Hulu is running its own take on the Theranos scandal, with The Dropout, starring Kate McKinnon as Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes. And it’s renewing two freshman comedies, Pen15 and Ramy for second seasons.

Hulu’s Newfronts are really about the advertisers, of course. And this year, Hulu is pitching them a way to better target and cater to binge watchers — the viewers who are tuning in to watch for long stretches at a time. This “binge ad experience” is the second non-intrusive format Hulu has developed — the first being the “pause ad” that only appears when you press pause.

Binge ads will instead allow advertisers to target just binge watchers with creatives that are “situationally relevant” to their viewing behavior. Hulu says it will have more to share about binge ads later this year, but we’re hearing that the idea is that the brand’s ad has to be somehow tailored to the viewing experience — for example, an opportunity to watch the next episode commercial-free or a personalized offer.

The ad format will roll out in Q4, then open to all advertisers in 2020.

“This is a monumental time for Hulu’s advertising business and for brands who are looking to reach the most valuable audience in television,” said Peter Naylor, SVP and Head of Advertising Sales at Hulu, in a statement released alongside today’s event. “Because of our viewer-first advertising principles, we’re scaling rapidly. We’re offering advertisers the most sophisticated targeting, the largest addressable footprint in on-demand television, robust measurement solutions, and new ad models,” he added. “Hulu is future-proofing TV advertising and transforming the way brands connect with consumers.”

Hulu’s efforts in trying to figure out how to balance advertising with a quality TV experience, where viewers aren’t continually interrupted by repetitive ads, could be an advantage. Its focus on the user experience could help it better compete amid a growing range of free, ad-supported streaming services — a market that today includes the likes of Roku, Amazon (IMDb), Sinclair, Viacom (Pluto TV), Tubi, Google (YouTube), Walmart (Vudu), and others.

And it could give it a head’s start on competing with Netflix, if and when Netflix decides to run ads at some point in the future — a topic that was discussed earlier this week at the NewFronts, when an ad exec hinted that Netflix’s recruiters were already working towards a future that included advertising.

“In today’s direct-to-consumer world, viewers are demanding better when it comes to TV — from the user experience to their content choices to the advertising,” said Hulu CEO Randy Freer, in a statement. “Hulu’s continued growth, as well as the shows and initiatives announced today, reflect our deep investment in product, programming, brand, customer experience and business strategy to ensure that with Hulu, consumers can connect with the stories they love, at the right time and price, on any device,” he said.

MLB to exclusively stream 13 live games to YouTube & YouTube TV

YouTube today announced a new partnership with the MLB which will allow the site to exclusively live stream 13 MLB games to both YouTube and YouTube TV during the second half of the regular baseball season. While YouTube TV had previously partnered with MLB — it’s currently serving as the presenting partner for the World Series, for example — this is YouTube’s first-ever exclusive live game partnership with the league.

The company says the schedule of the games and dates will be announced in a few weeks’ time, but will include 13 games that will be exclusively available to viewers in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico for free on the MLB YouTube channel, and on a dedicated channel that will come to YouTube TV.

The games will also include a pre-game and post-game show, and will contain MLB and YouTube-themed content from popular YouTube creators, who have yet to be announced. The games will be produced and enhanced for the YouTube platform by the MLB Network’s production team.

Deal terms were not disclosed.

“It’s incredible to team up with Major League Baseball for this first-of-its-kind deal together to provide both diehard baseball fans and our YouTube community with live games exclusively on YouTube and YouTube TV,” said Timothy Katz, YouTube’s Head of Sports and News Partnerships, in a statement. “With Major League Baseball’s expanding international fanbase, we are confident YouTube’s global audience will bring fans around the world together in one place to watch the games and teams they love.”

In addition to YouTube TV’s presenting sponsorship of the World Series (2017-2019), the two organizations have a history of working together. MLB has been live streaming games since 2002 on MLB.tv, and started its YouTube channel back in 2005. Today, MLB content and that from its 30 Clubs are available on YouTube including all old games since 2009. The YouTube audience generated 1.25 billion YouTube channel views in 2018 — up 25 percent over the year prior — the organization said.

YouTube TV also added the MLB Network to its channel lineup, and created baseball-themed content as part of its marketing campaign promoting the live TV streaming service.

“YouTube is an enormously popular video platform with impressive global reach and has served as a great environment for baseball fans to consume the game they love,” said Chris Tully, MLB Executive Vice President, Global Media, in the announcement. “We are excited to expand our partnership with YouTube to provide fans with an exclusive, customized live game viewing experience. With the media consumption habits of our fans continuing to evolve, MLB is committed both to expanding our roster of national broadcast platforms and to presenting live games in new ways to our fans,” Tully added.

MLB’s deal with YouTube comes on the heels of last month’s news that Facebook was significantly trimming the number of MLB games it would stream to just six non-exclusive games, down from the 25 exclusive games it streamed on Facebook Watch in 2018. Twitter, meanwhile, announced a deal with MLB last month that focused on more interaction between fans and the league on its social network.

For example, fans can vote for which players’ at-bats they want to watch live on Twitter every day, and the @MLB account will broadcast live shows around key events — like the London Series, Home Run Derby, All-Star Game from Cleveland, trade deadline, and the Postseason — as well as near real-time game video highlights.

The games’ arrival to a forthcoming channel on YouTube TV could entice more of the streaming service subscribers to upgrade to the full MLB Network add-on, which was made available last year alongside the news of the World Series sponsorship. YouTube TV doesn’t disclose subscriber numbers, but a March report from Bloomberg claims it has grown quickly and has now topped 1 million.

Netflix says it’s testing a shuffle feature for when you don’t know what to watch

Netflix is testing a new feature that can help you start streaming when you don’t know what to watch. The company confirmed it’s testing a shuffle mode of sorts, that will allow you to easily click on a popular show to start playing a random episode. The idea with the feature is to offer an experience that’s more like traditional TV — where you could just turn the set on, and there would be something to watch.

With today’s streaming services, that sort of seamless experience is more difficult to achieve. Instead, viewers now have to first select a streaming app, then scroll through endless menus and recommendations before they can settle on their next title.

The new shuffle feature, instead, offers something closer to the experience of turning on cable TV, when there was always some classic favorite show playing in syndication.

The shows being tested with the new feature appear to be those that people choose when they don’t know what else to watch, like The Office, New Girl, Our Planet, Arrested Development and others.

The Office, in particular, has a reputation for being a go-to pick for when you’re not in the middle of some other binge fest.

The TV shows appear in a new row, titled “Play a Random Episode.” To get started, you’d click any TV show’s thumbnail, and a random episode from the series then starts playing.

The thumbnails themselves are also adorned with a red “shuffle” icon to indicate they’ll play a random episode.

(Above: Seems someone had the right idea)

The new feature was first spotted by the folks at Android Police, who saw the option appear in the Android version of Netflix’s app.

Netflix confirmed to TechCrunch the shuffle feature is something it’s considering, but hasn’t yet committed to rolling out.

“We are testing the ability for members to play a random episode from different TV series on the Android mobile app. These tests typically vary in length of time and by region, and may not become permanent,” a Netflix spokesperson said.

Netflix for some time has been focused on ways to get users streaming its content faster, after they log in. That’s where it’s decision to run autoplaying trailers comes in, for example, or why it now features those Stories-inspired previews; or why it tested promoting its shows right on the login screen.

Image credit: Android Police

Wattpad partners with Sony Pictures Television in first-look deal for original programming

Wattpad, the online storytelling community whose authors’ works have been turned into Netflix movies, TV shows for Hulu and projects for other studios both in the U.S. and worldwide, announced today a new partnership with Sony Pictures Television. The deal gives Sony a first-look option for up-and-coming Wattpad stories — in other words, a way to snag the next big teen hit that already has a built-in fan base.

Wattpad says it will work with Sony to help it to identify the popular stories on its platform from the half a billion story uploads it has seen to date. The company uses its “Story DNA” machine learning technology alongside human curation to quickly identify the most promising IP and storytellers on Wattpad.

The technology helps deconstruct stories by analyzing things like sentence structure, word use and grammar, with the goal of helping to uncover the next best seller. It’s used today to help identify stories to turn into films, TV shows, books, and other digital projects.

Key to Wattpad’s ability to make these business deals is its online community, which today includes over 70 million monthly users, who spend over 22 billion minutes engaged with its original stories uploaded to its site.

This sizable community helped make Netflix’s “The Kissing Booth” movie a success, where the original story behind the film had already been read 19 million times by users worldwide.

Wattpad’s “Light as a Feather,” produced for Hulu along with AwesomenessTV and Grammnet, has been Emmy-nominated, and just got renewed for a second season.

Wattpad’s “After,” launched in theaters on April 12. It’s based on Harry Styles fan fiction and is something of a “50 Shades..” for a younger demographic. Before it became five-book series, it first racked up over a billion reads on Wattpad’s site.

Today, Wattpad works with a range of entertainment partners worldwide for similar deals, including iflix, eOne, Huayi Brothers Korea, SYFY, and others, and has turned its stories into projects at Universal Cable Productions (NBCU), Hulu, Netflix, and elsewhere.

Sony Pictures TV already had a relationship with Wattpad, before today’s news.

Last year, it acquired the series “Death is My BFF” from Katerina E. Tonks, which has over 62 million reads on the site. Lindsey Rosin (“Cruel Intentions”) is slated to write the series.

“Our entertainment partners all over the world have seen the power of our data-backed approach to IP discovery and development.” said Aron Levitz, Head of Wattpad Studios, in a statement. “Wattpad stories are some of the most innovative and creative that have ever been written. The stories and diverse voices on Wattpad deserve to be heard all over the world. And our partnership with Sony does just that: bringing Wattpad stories to new and existing fans all over the planet,” he said.

The Sony deal will be overseen by Eric Lehrman, Wattpad’s Head of Content Development and Production, the company says.

Wattpad is represented by UTA, who helped broker the deal.

 

HBO’s mobile apps to gain a million new downloads courtesy of ‘Game of Thrones’ premiere

In addition to exciting its loyal legion of fans, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” premiere was also once again great news for installs of the network’s app for cord cutters, HBO NOW, which shot to the top of the App Store this weekend. The app this weekend saw a combined 300,000-plus new mobile subscribers in the U.S. across both Apple’s App Store and Google Play, according to preliminary estimates from Sensor Tower.

This is the highest the app has ranked on the U.S. iPhone App Store in three years, Sensor Tower notes, with its previous highest ranking on April 24, 2016 for the Season 6 “Game of Thrones” premiere. At that time, the app had seen 160,000 downloads on just the one day.

Sensor Tower expects to have more precise estimates of the premiere’s impact in the near future, as it wants to incorporate numbers from the fans who are getting a late start and downloading the app today.

Currently, the app is holding its No. 1 position on Apple’s App Store. If that continues, it could easily add another couple hundred thousand over the course of today (Monday, April 15, 2019), Sensor Tower estimates. That could see the app surpassing 500,000 new downloads across the three-day period.

To be clear, these numbers refer to users who have never before installed the app on their phone – not re-downloads.

Of course, this isn’t necessarily a 1:1 correlation with new HBO NOW subscribers. Many fans watch the series on their TV’s big screen through an HBO app for devices like Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, and others. Or they may tune in to watch on the web, via their laptop. Still, it’s a notable number – especially considering how late it is in the series for the show to be gaining new fans.

HBO’s app for cable and satellite TV customers, HBO Go, also did well this weekend. It’s on track to exceed 400,000 installs over the same three-day period (the weekend of the Season 8 premiere, plus Monday). This is highest the app has ranked since the Season 7 premiere in July 2017, when it added 350,000 first-time users across both stores worldwide.

Combined, the two apps — HBO Go and HBO NOW — are poised to exceed over 1 million new installs in this three-day period, Sensor Tower forecasts.

However, fans’ interest in the long-awaited new season may have caused HBO’s apps to struggle some.

There have been reports from Down Detector and Business Insider of users who had issues streaming from the HBO apps, as well as Hulu. But these were nowhere on the scale of crashes we’ve seen in years past — as with the Season 4 “Game of Thrones” premiere, which had HBO issuing a public apology due to the size of the outage. (HBO has not responded to our requests for comment about the unconfirmed reports detailing last night’s issues. So the issues could be chalked up to users’ broadband connections, or other factors.)

Other TV apps had a few glitches, too, thanks to the premiere. For example, the TV-tracking social app TV Time temporarily struggled to load, shortly after the premiere’s airing last night. On its app, “Game of Thrones” is one of the most-tracked shows, where it has 4.3 million followers who post comments, photos, memes and more to the show’s in-app community. Today, there are some 6,200 comments in the show’s forum, from fans discussing the show.

The Roku Channel adds support for HBO just in time for ‘Game of Thrones’

Just days ahead of the return of “Game of Thrones,” Roku has forged a deal with HBO which now gives the media device maker the ability to sell the premium channel as a subscription through its dedicated content hub, The Roku Channel. Originally a destination for free and ad-supported movies and TV, The Roku Channel in January rolled out a significant update that put it in more direct competition with Amazon Channels with the launch of premium subscriptions.

Now, alongside the free content, Roku users can choose to subscribe to premium channels like Showtime, Starz, EPIX, and others – including, as of this week, HBO. Those channels’ content can then be streamed directly through The Roku Channel itself on TVs as well as within Roku’s updated mobile app.

When The Roku Channel’s subscription platform made its debut earlier this year, HBO was one of the biggest names to come up missing, along with Netflix and Hulu.

But Netflix and Hulu don’t tend to allow subscriptions through third-party platforms like The Roku Channel (or, more recently, via Apple TV+). HBO, however, does. The premium channel and home to “Game of Thrones” is available as an add-on across a range of streaming services and a la carte TV providers – including The Roku Channel’s biggest competitor, Amazon Prime Video Channels. 

Without HBO in The Roku Channel, users who wanted to stream one of TV’s biggest shows would have to leave Roku’s hub and navigate back to the Roku home screen where they could access HBO directly through its dedicated Roku app. That was bad news for Roku as it’s trying to keep users’ viewing activity centralized and contained in one spot, in order to promote the ad-supported fare that helps Roku make money.

Roku says users can now opt into a free 7-day HBO trial in The Roku Channel, which then converts to a $14.99 per month subscription if the trial isn’t cancelled.

Those who subscribe to HBO through The Roku Channel won’t be able to login to HBO’s standalone apps, HBO NOW or HBO Go, but will instead watch its content through Roku’s hub, where its programs are featured alongside Roku’s over 10,000 free movies and TV episodes.

Like other Roku Channel subscriptions, HBO will appear on users’ one monthly bill.

For consumers, keeping all your add-on TV subscriptions in one place makes it easier to track what you’re paying for, and simplifies the cancellation process when you’re ready to adjust your cord cutting mix.