Why last night's HBO Go crash should scare WWE

photo by HBO

Millions of fans hit HBO's servers last night to catch the finale of 'True Detective' live as it aired. Their HBO Go service couldn't handle the traffic. A look at why reveals some troubling possibilities for WWE Network as it prepares for WrestleMania 30.

Last night at around 9PM Eastern Daylight Time, thousands of people settled down to their laptops, tablets and other streaming devices to watch the eighth and final episode of the first season of HBO's buzz-rific show True Detective.

They were greeted by the picture accompanying this post, and then this tweet from HBO Go's Twitter account:

For those unfamiliar with the HBO Go service, it's essentially HBO's streaming service.  For the most part, HBO original programming and movies that HBO has the exclusive broadcast rights to do not appear on NetFlix of Hulu, but customers who subscribe to HBO through their cable or satellite television provider gain access to the service for use on other devices, like personal computers, tablets and phones.

So as to not put themselves in the position of competing with the partners from whom they collect massive fees and payments, the GO service is not "stand alone" like NetFlix or WWE Network.  In theory, the only people it is available to are customers who subscribe to the television service through Comcast, Verizon, Dish and similar providers.

That's the idea, anyway.

Like WWE Network, HBO Go is accessed with a user name and password.  A user name and password that can be, and frequently is, shared by many members of the same household.  Or circle of friends.  Or neighborhood.

There was already some concern raised about the service's ability to handle a large audience for a single event when NXT ArRIVAL hiccuped during it's live debut on WWE Network on Thursday, February 27th.  That was just a few days into a launch that had more than a couple of bugs, though.  And it was coming from a small venue that may had limited external bandwidth.  And the company and their partners had six weeks to fine-tune and trouble shoot the service before WrestleMania 30.

All of those things are still true, and Vince McMahon's team and their partners at MLB Advanced Media are no doubt burning the midnight oil working to ensure that WWE Network is as stable as possible for April 6th.

The HBO issue raises another concern, though.  WWE Network users have been openly discussing the sharing of login information on social media.  Some of the launch troubles were due to international users trying to find ways into the system that wasn't yet scheduled for international support.  Folks can still be found discussing ways that they have accessed the Network from overseas, almost two weeks since official word was that those holes had been patched.

Are WWE and MLBAM readying themselves for the million subscribers that they hope to have signed up to watch WrestleMania online?  Or are they getting ready for the less predictable number that might hit their servers on that first Sunday in April with their friend's password, or from overseas via a proxy?

Wall Street and the press love what they have seen or heard about WWE Network so far.  Early buzz has Vince at the forefront of a change in the way viewers consume sports and entertainment, as he was when the first WrestleMania birthed the modern pay-per-view (PPV).

But the launch of a new service was always going to be a risk, and having the biggest show in history be the first largely promoted event to air on it compounds that risk.  The issue that HBO ran into last night (which was corrected in short order, but is still the subject of a fair amount of press coverage today) could prove an ugly black eye to the new service when it will not even be two months old.

A stressed and tired development and quality testing team probably just got a whole lot more stressed and tired when the HBO Go log-on wheel spun like a flat circle into the underneath last night.

For fans and investors of WWE, WrestleMania 30 and beyond may depend on their solving the case.

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