HBO Go and the making of a pretty, pretty, pretty good mobile app

Jun 9, 2011
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For entertainment companies like HBO that have extraordinarily valuable libraries of content, getting movies and original programming into the hands of consumers is crucial. With HBO Go, subscribers can access rich content whenever they want, however they want, and on a device (desktop, iPhone, iPad and Android to name a few) that is most convenient […]

For entertainment companies like HBO that have extraordinarily valuable libraries of content, getting movies and original programming into the hands of consumers is crucial.

With HBO Go, subscribers can access rich content whenever they want, however they want, and on a device (desktop, iPhone, iPad and Android to name a few) that is most convenient to them.

“Our goal is to ensure that our subscribers can access us on any platforms they choose,” explained Courteney Monroe, Executive Vice President, Consumer Marketing and Digital Platforms.

Also in this edition of Meet the Makers, Monroe discusses how the company conceived what is now a blockbuster application, what HBO Go offers to non-subscribers, and additional incentives for existing subscribers to download the app (including premiering an episode of Game of Thrones on HBO Go before it ran elsewhere).

Appolicious: After launching on April 29, the HBO Go mobile application generated more than one million downloads. While the network has a loyal fanbase to tap into when offering new products, can you walk through the two or three biggest factors in driving downloads?

Courteney Monroe: The biggest driver of HBO GO is the content. We worked hard to create an app that was worthy of the HBO brand name and believe the end result is a product that is beautiful and very easy to use. But without HBO’s original programming, it’s all meaningless.

APPO: Was it always the plan to launch simultaneously on iOS and Android devices? Are there plans to launch on additional mobile platforms (BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, etc.)?

CM: That was always the plan. Our checklist for launching the HBO GO app was the ability to be multi-platform as well as the ability for a large majority of our subscribers to have access. And, we plan to launch on more platforms in the coming months. Our goal is to ensure that our subscribers can access us on any platforms they choose.

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APPO: HBO is letting fans of the show Game of Thrones to watch an episode early on HBO Go. What other exclusive content and features do you plan for the service?

CM: Because we create and own our content, we do have the ability to get creative on HBO GO. The ability to work with the creators, producers and writers directly provides us a great amount of flexibility. Offering up episode 7 of Game of Thrones in advance or creating an interactive viewing experience at HBOGO.com for Game of Thrones are good examples of that. We will certainly do more of these types of things in the future, but will always be respectful of those that do not have access to HBO GO as to not to provide too many spoilers.

APPO: On this point, do you foresee ways to take advantage of the mobile context of users accessing HBO on smaller screens and provide location-based content and services while they are on the go?

CM: That is certainly something we are exploring provided it feels organic and additive to the consumer experience.

APPO: What is the value, if any, for users who don’t currently have a subscription to download HBO Go?

CM: The true value is to HBO subscribers but non-subscribers can view short form clips and get exposure to what HBO GO offers when they are deciding if they want to subscribe.

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APPO: When developing HBO Go for mobile devices, were there other apps created by major media and entertainment companies that influenced the process?

CM: I can’t say we were overly influenced by anything in particular but we of course took a look across the entertainment landscape. What we kept asking ourselves when designing the interface was, “Does it live up to the quality expected of the HBO brand?” We also wanted subscribers to be able to get to the content quickly so you usually will be able to view what you want within a couple clicks or strokes. We strove for elegance and simplicity. Hopefully our subscribers feel we delivered.

APPO: How large is the existing mobile team? How much of the mobile apps development process (if at all) was outsourced to independent agencies?

CM: There is a large team of people at HBO responsible for GO and the development was handled by a combination of internal and external resources.

APPO: As more consumers have access to smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices that can eventually carry HBO content, can you anticipate how much of an investment the network will make in mobile moving forward (relative to the resources it deploys today)?

CM: We don’t share dollar figures but I can tell you HBO GO is a top priority for the company and it will be an important part of our business going forward. And, as I said, our goal is a simple one … to be on every device and every platform our subscribers are interested in accessing.

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Brad Spirrison

Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of appoLearning and Appolicious Inc. In this capacity, he has sampled and evaluated thousands of iOS and Android applications. He also holds an M.A. in Education and Media Ecology from New York University.

Spirrison worked in concert with appoLearning Expert and Instructional Technology Specialist Leslie Morris while curating and evaluating educational applications.

A longtime media and technology commentator and executive, Spirrison is also a regular contributor to ABC News, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg West and The Christopher Gabriel Program.

Spirrison is married and lives with his wife and young son in Chicago. As his son was born just weeks before the debut of the iPad, Spirrison takes his work home with him and regularly samples and enjoys a variety of educational applications for young children.

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