Last night, Game of Thrones fans flocked to HBO Go as soon as the season four premiere was available. They were met with error after error, taking to the internet to complain about the shoddy service. What they should have done instead? Actually subscribe to HBO. Crazy, I know.
Richard Lawson made a similar point over at Vanity Fair when last month's True Detective finale forced HBO Go into meltdown, but it bears repeating. The people who are trying to watch an episode of Game of Thrones online instead of on TV as it airs are—with some exceptions you're welcome to yell about below—not HBO subscribers. If they were, they'd be watching it on their TVs. Or, if they were somehow indisposed for that specific window of time (finishing up a canasta game?), they could have DVR'd it.
The complainers are the moochers, the people who are using their cousin's ex-girlfriend's dad's HBO Go password instead of forking over 16 bucks a month to watch it on their televisions. HBO knows this as well, which might explain why its Twitter customer support line ended up being more sassy than helpful:
And why it followed the Stark snark with a reminder that subscribers had a perfectly reasonable alternative to bitching:
Because you guys are subscribers, right? A bit of gamesmanship worthy of Littlefinger himself.
Just to be clear, I have nothing against mooching. The fact that standalone HBO Go subscriptions are expensive as hell is justification enough for using someone else's password. By all means! No problem there. Even HBO's cool with it. Moreover, the struggles of HBO Go and other online television efforts raise serious questions about whether streaming TV is capable of keeping up with the legion of cord cutters. There are plenty of nuances to be sifted through here.
Your right to complain isn't one of them, though. Not when it's a thing you did not pay for but did help break. That's the trade-off you're signing up for. And that's what $16 a month buys you: The confidence that you'll be able to watch a show when it airs, or to DVR it so that it's safe from the moochers storming HBO Go's streaming castle.
This post original said that the GoT premiere was available on HBO Go immediately after it was on TV (as is HBO's usual Go policy). It's been updated to reflect that it debuted at the same time on Go as on cable.