HBO subscribers can now use their PlayStation 4s to access HBO Go — but not if you’re a Comcast customer.
According to TechDirt, Comcast is refusing to grant this connection between the PlayStation 4 and the HBO Go app, even though every other internet service provider — including Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and AT&T — allows it.
As TechDirt points out, HBO Go falls under the “TV Everywhere” initiative, where cable and broadband providers let you access most cable content online, so long as you’re a cable customer. Like most other content that falls under this initiative, HBO Go requires you quickly authenticate your cable account before you can access the content, which you’ve already paid for, on another internet-connected device like an Apple TV or Roku.
But, even though HBO Go has been available on PlayStation 3 for over a year — and now it’s available on PlayStation 4, as of this week — Comcast customers still can’t activate the app on those platforms. Here’s Comcast’s explanation for why it takes them so long to set up this simple authentication system:
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 prioritise as we partner with various players.
And here’s TechDirt’s likely explanation for why this is happening to Sony:
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 cannibalising traditional TV/HBO viewers). Comcast’s basically using the TV Anywhere authentication mechanism — as opposed to outright blocking or throttling — to prohibit its customers from accessing content in a way Comcast doesn’t approve of.
If Comcast is actually coercing Sony into paying more money to unblock its services, as TechDirt suggests, it might be a violation of the new rules set by the FCC last week, which voted to bar ISPs like Comcast from slowing down, charging extra, or outright blocking certain online services.
We’ve reached out to Comcast and the FCC for comment, and we’ll update this story when we learn more.
Last year, Comcast similarly blocked HBO Go from working with Roku, until Roku filed a complaint with the FCC in July.
In its complaint, Roku argued that companies like Comcast should be disallowed “from favouring certain content and platforms over others through the use of discriminatory authentication,” since those distributors “may agree to authenticate an app on some platforms but not others, or discourage consumers from using third-party over-the-top IP applications in the first place by requiring third-party providers to unlock multiple apps individually.”
Comcast finally allowed HBO Go and Showtime’s Anytime app to work with Roku devices in December. But luckily for HBO subscribers, they soon won’t have to worry about Comcast or any other ISP interfering with their service: HBO is about to launch a standalone app, called HBO Now, which won’t require any time of authentication from a cable provider.