For the last two weeks, HBO’s servers experienced some problems during the Game of Thrones‘ live airing. But last week, the darkness of the episode caused problems for some viewers. Is HBO NOW or HBO GO better quality? Is there a way to make dark episodes brighter? Here’s what we know about your streaming options for the show.
HBO GO Is a Streaming Service for People Who Already Have Cable or Satellite that Includes HBO, & HBO NOW Is a Streaming Service for People Without Cable
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, in contrast, 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.
As for HBO NOW vs HBO GO: 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.
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.
Both HBO NOW & HBO GO May Have Problems with Darker Episodes
Last week, a lot of viewers complained about the episode being too dark. Unfortunately, the video compression from HBO GO and NOW might be creating some of the issues and this just can’t be fixed, TechCrunch noted. The issues will be the same whether you are using HBO NOW or HBO GO, and possibly with other streaming services too.
However, there’s one possible exception. Server overload might lend itself to the streams being lower quality, some viewers have pointed out. Some viewers have noted that HBO GO and NOW stream quality seemed better the next day, possibly because fewer people were watching at the same time.
In addition, some viewers just had a better experience overall with HBO GO or HBO NOW than they did on their TV. Here’s a thread where one viewer says that watching it on their Verizon FIOS package was far worse than on their Xbox’s HBO GO app.
In a different thread, a viewer believes that watching it on Roku made the episode tougher to view, but watching it on Xbox’s HBO GO app was a big improvement.
If you’re watching live on your TV, here are a few ideas on how to fix your TV or device the next time an episode appears too dark to see things clearly.
First, look into calibrating your TV, in case it hasn’t already been done. This could help give you the best possible picture and correct black levels that may be off and make a dark episode tough to watch. Try setting your television to Movie or Cinema mode to see if that helps. Others have suggested that a first-person gaming mode might be better for a darker episode. So if you’re TV has some kind of Game mode, give it a try.
If it doesn’t help, try following the advice in one of the videos below for calibrating the colors on your TV:
Down the line, when the episodes are available for download or purchase, you might want to buy this episode or the entire season on Blu-Ray just to see Episode 3 and other episodes whose quality now seems low. Those are bound to be better. But in the meantime, hopefully some of these ideas can help your live stream viewing efforts.