Yes, HBO Max Knows Their App Sucks (And Want To Fix It)
Everyone who has used HBO Max has marveled at how impressively inept their app is -- the crashes, the laborious process to browse to the next episode, the crashes, the elusive episode selection menu itself, the crashes, the selective inability to remember certain shows you're watching while pushing others you once accidentally played for two seconds, the crashes, and the crashes make it feel like it was intentionally designed to piss you off. Also, the crashes (almost forgot). But, believe it or not, this is not just a social experiment to find out how many people they can get to throw their phones at their TV screens in anger: according to an HBO exec, the app's remarkable suckitude was Disney+'s fault.
In an interview with Protocol, HBO Max's head of Product Experience Sarah Lyons explains that "Disney launched during our planning, and we knew others were coming," so, taking a page from the video game industry, they launched a crappy product with the intent of fixing it later. The main problem is that instead of creating an all-new platform, they just grabbed whatever they already had lying around, which happened to be the HBO Go and HBO Now apps. HBO Go was meant to be a place for cable subscribers to catch up on episodes of shows they were already watching, so they never really thought about stuff like "We should make it so browsing hundreds of titles isn't a total pain in the ass" while designing it. HBO Go was already infamous for crashing or subjecting you to eternal loading times during every single Game of Thrones season premiere or finale, so that didn't bode well.
Lyons says: "We knew that that platform never could handle what HBO Max was going to do. It never was intended to go global, it was never intended to go direct-to-consumer." At first, the app wasn't even able to sort shows into more than one category, but they were able to fix that and some other problems before launch ... while leaving a crapload of others unattended. And yes, the team knows exactly how much you hate the app, because according to Lyons, they're reading all of our social media posts bitching about it: "I've literally been looking at customer feedback daily. I look at all social media, tweets, every single word a customer says," which is probably a full time job in itself.
At least they're working on it. Recently, they've been moving the apps to a new platform based on a startup they bought in 2020 which apparently had this stuff more figured out than a ginormous media conglomerate. Crashes and load times are reportedly down, and you no longer have to click on 20 things to navigate to the next episode (would be nice if you didn't have to click twice to disable auto-play on the next one now, though ...). Best of luck, Sarah! Because we know you're reading this.
Top image: HBO