Netflix has spoiled me. The video streaming pioneer is a sophisticated platform that makes browsing a huge catalog feel as comfortable and familiar as scanning the media shelves in my living room. That is, if my living room shelves could magically refresh themselves with new items while remaining perfectly curated to my current tastes, while being (mostly) clutter-free. The 18-year-old company has made me expect savvy streaming experiences – especially when viewing premium content.
So imagine my horror when I signed up for HBO NOW and discovered the user interface looking like a free WP magazine-style theme template! There doesn’t seem to be any account personalization outside of the very basic watchlist, which allows you to save items to watch later. That leaves the front page to fall back on the curation efforts that appeal to the largest common denominator… and we know what happens with that approach. Or, if you didn’t know, here it is.
[Pictured, from HBO NOW desktop app: A collection of movie stills that all feature white males, with a few decorative guns and women in the mix. The guns outnumber the women.]
If I didn’t already know that HBO does actually have great programming, a page like this would send me directly to the subscription cancellation page in my Google Play account. Yet the network can bank on it’s huge and hugely popular catalogue of critically acclaimed shows and documentaries to make viewers like me slog through what looks like someone’s copy+paste-from-the-CMS-backend job.
HBO has finally bent to the inevitable tide of online entertainment consumption that is ringing the death knell of traditional cable services. They must have finally understood that folks like me (and I’m among a growing majority) would sooner forego the pleasure of a timely viewing of Curb Your Enthusiasm, VEEP, Getting On and so so many movies than submit to the tyranny that is a traditional cable subscription. However, they are a long way from serving on-demanding consumers who expect smart information architecture and customized content.
In the longrun – after a number of series binges – the poor navigation and lack of dynamic discovery in the app will make the offering much less attractive to me. Especially at it’s premium $14.99 per month price. Further, Netflix is quickly catching up in the original programming game. To remain competitive HBO will really have to push to develop it’s applications to the golden user experience standard customers now expect.