It’s Not a Right

It’s grumpy time again.

Can we please add “I can’t watch streaming TV” to the list of problems to never, ever, mention again? OK, can we please create that list, starting with that question?

There’s a lot of moping on the Internet today because HBO Go crashed for several hours Sunday, preventing the teeming masses from watching the season finale of “True Detective”. Oh, the horror!

Monday, HBO admitted that the root cause of the crash is that they simply lacked the capacity to meet the demand.

Just as a reminder: HBO Go is not a pure subscription play. You can only get it along with a cable or satellite service*. That means by definition, that the streaming option is not your only option for watching the show. It’s not even your only legal option.

* Despite public demand, HBO has no plans at this time to sell unbundled subscriptions. Maybe there’s a reason for that. Companies don’t decline potential revenue on a whim. Or at least companies that want to survive don’t do that.

“But I wasn’t home, so HBO Go was my only choice to watch it!” There’s a thing called a DVR. Your life will be ruined if you don’t see the show? These clever devices will rescue you by saving a copy so you can watch it when you get home. That way you don’t have to divide your attention between the show and the friends you’re hanging out with (so you don’t look like a jerk), the emergency meeting you got called into (so you don’t look like an unemployed idiot), or the car you’re driving (so you don’t look dead).

Some people are using this failure as a sign that we’ll never reach the ultimate goal: giving up cable and satellite in favor of an exclusively streaming television experience. Seriously. One failure of a service that’s only been working out its bugs for a few years, and people are ready to write it off forever? How many times has their cable service–which has had at least ten times as long to solve its problems–gone out since HBO Go’s launch in 2010?

Look, I’ll grant that–to the extent that watching TV is something you “have” to do–there are some legitimate cases for watching when you’re not near a TV*. But those are in the minority, darn it.

* I can’t claim to be free of sin here–I admit to place-shifting Mariners’ baseball games into my TV-free office. But that’s not going to stop me from casting stones.

Watching TV on the go is not a right–and remember that the US Constitution promises the right to the pursuit of happiness; it doesn’t promise that you’ll catch it. If your streaming service doesn’t work, call customer support and demand a pro-rated refund. If the providers have to cough up enough money, they’ll decide it’s cheaper to increase capacity to meet a higher level of demand.

Until that happens, try an alternative. Watch live TV at home. Record your show and watch it at your convenience–you can even download it to your mobile device. Talk to your friends, solve your boss’ problem, drive safely.

And don’t clutter up the Internet with your complaints.

Thank you.

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