For the last two weeks, HBO’s servers experienced some problems during the Game of Thrones live airing. But thankfully, last week was better than the premiere, so hopefully this week will be even better. While you’re planning your viewing strategy for Episode 3, how do you know which of the two streaming services to choose? The answer is that each is good for very separate audiences, but you might want to have a backup streaming option, like Hulu, in place in case the servers just can’t handle the number of people using them.
HBO GO Is a Streaming Service for People Who Already Have Cable or Satellite that Includes HBO
HBO GO is one of HBO’s two streaming services. HBO GO would be your choice if you have a cable or satellite subscription that already includes HBO in the package. But unfortunately, HBO Go isn’t available with all cable companies. Some are still negotiating terms to be able to use HBO GO. So you should check before tonight to make sure that your cable company lets you access and use HBO GO to watch Game of Thrones.
If your cable company works with HBO GO, then you’ll have free access to the HBO GO streaming service as long as you have HBO with your cable or satellite package. If that’s the case, then this is your cheapest and best choice.
HBO NOW Is the Best Choice for People Who Don’t Have a Cable or Satellite Service
HBO NOW is HBO’s standalone streaming service and provides all of HBO’s programming via the internet. You don’t need a cable or satellite subscription for this one because it’s standalone. But if you’re already paying for HBO elsewhere, you won’t get this one for free. The service costs $14.99 per month — but it offers a one-month free trial if you want to give it a try for the third episode. You must cancel before the end of the trial to avoid charges.
Once your account is established, you can watch HBO Now through the app on your portable device, through the app on this extensive list of streaming devices, or on your computer over the web at HBONow.com. Sign in with the email and password you used to establish your account and start watching. You can watch live or on demand later.
Hulu Has an HBO Streaming Add-On with a Similar Cost to HBO NOW
If you have Hulu, you can live stream Game of Thrones episodes as they air or watch them later. But you can only do this if you add HBO as an add-on to Hulu or Hulu with Live TV. So this will cost you a small additional price, unless you have access to a free trial. Hulu is currently advertising watching Game of Thrones on Hulu for just $14.99 a month after one week free, which is just a few dollars more than a basic commercial-free plan. This is the same price as HBO NOW.
Once signed up, you can watch Game of Thrones live as it airs, or you can watch it on-demand anytime after. With either option, you can watch on your computer via the Hulu website, or on your phone (Android and iPhone supported), tablet, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (on-demand only), Nintendo Switch, Echo Show or other streaming device via the Hulu app.
HBO NOW vs. HBO GO vs. Hulu
The services are fairly similar. According to HBO, both NOW and GO offer all of HBO’s shows (including Game of Thrones) and they both stream on phones, TV, tablets, and laptops. You can stream live episodes with both too. But only HBO GO is free if you already have an HBO package with a cable or satellite provider, and only HBO NOW will work without a cable or satellite package.
Meanwhile, Hulu costs about the same as HBO NOW for people who don’t already have a cable service with an HBO subscription. But it seems to only have a one-week free trial vs HBO NOW’s one month free trial. (These can change at any time.) The Hulu servers appear to have fewer problems than HBO GO & NOW servers, according to the number of complaints tweeted during the live episodes.
There’s a possible bonus if you watch on HBO NOW or GO. Your episode live stream will likely start about three minutes before everyone else. In other words, the episode might begin at 8:57 p.m. Eastern rather than 9 p.m. Eastern, leaving you just a couple minutes ahead of people watching with more traditional methods.
However, there’s also a downside. If the servers are overwhelmed, then both HBO GO and HBO NOW might not work right away. This was a big problem during last week’s premiere and still continued to be an issue for some during the second episode.
To figure out what backup plan is best for you in case the servers have trouble, please check out Heavy’s article here about how to stream Game of Thrones.