Editor’s Note: Don’t worry, there are NO SPOILERS in this article.
The season 5 premiere of Game of Thrones is officially history…did Sling TV deliver? There was a lot of skepticism going in–after all, the premiere of Season 4 was HBO’s most watched show since the series finale of The Sopranos. And following some technical difficulties with the Final Four tournament, many wondered if Sling TV was up to the challenge.
Despite the trepidation, thousands tuned in via Sling TV (a number of which were using the free 7-day trial that is still available) to catch the much-anticipated premiere. While there were some difficulties in the beginning, Sling TV’s addition of HBO Video on Demand (VOD) service helped it deliver.
A Look Back at Sling TV’s Final Four Problems
Leading up to the Game of Thrones premiere, there was a lot of skepticism due to Final Four issues Sling faced a week or so before. Sling TV’s first real test was the semi-finals of the NCAA’s super popular March Madness basketball tournament. During the Kentucky and Wisconsin matchup, servers were overloaded and about 1000 subscribers experienced blackened screens for a couple of minutes. It sounds small, but it didn’t stop customers from flocking to social media in outrage.
The company apologized and promised to improve, but it wasn’t enough to keep the media from jumping all over Sling’s slip-up.
We’re sorry some basketball fans saw errors tonight due to extreme sign-ups and streaming. Engineers rebalanced load across network partners
— Sling Answers (@slinganswers) April 5, 2015
Yet potential customers still watched closely, hoping Sling TV could live up to their claims.
A Look at How Sling TV Fared During the Game of Thrones Premiere
In response to the complaints, Sling rolled out software updates to handle greater stress on servers. They also made the episode available in the on-demand library and posted on their blog about the different ways to view the premiere prior to the episode’s airing. So how did they do? Honestly, things looked bleak at the beginning. Some customers took to Twitter to let the world (and @Sling) know that they’re screen was stuck on loading. Some Roku users also complained that the app wouldn’t start up. Sling promised they were working hard to fix the issue.
They also mentioned that they were releasing the episode in their on-demand library, so those who missed pieces of the broadcast could watch the entire thing.It seems the VOD was Sling’s saving grace, as it appears to have worked well for most everyone.
— Sling Answers (@slinganswers) April 13, 2015
Did it go perfectly? No. But let’s be honest here, it’s a new service still working out the kinks. That said, it still has a little something for everyone, especially people who aren’t certain they are ready to ditch cable (as this redditor points out). We can only look forward to things getting better and better as Sling TV matures. I, for one, am looking forward to their future.
How Did HBO NOW Match Up to Sling’s Performance?
The Game of Thrones premiere was also the first big test for another new streaming service, HBO NOW. Touted as HBO GO without cable, the service also faced a bit of skepticism after it’s HBO GO counterpart infamously crashed during last year’s season 4 premiere of Game of Thrones. The season 4 premiere featured the largest HBO audience since the series finale of The Sopranos, which led to an HBO GO crash. This came less than a month after a similar crash occurred during the season finale of True Detective.
Props to HBO Now for streaming the new Game of Thrones tonight with nary a hitch. I was half expecting the service to get overwhelmed… — Thomas Serio (@thomasserio) April 13, 2015
However, HBO opted to outsource streaming of HBO NOW to MLBAM, who is no stranger to successfully streaming live events for big audiences (MLB opening day, Wrestlemania, etc.). It appears the streaming powerhouse was a smart choice, as the service flexed its muscles worked like a charm during the season 5 premiere.
First 4 Episodes of Game of Thrones Season 5 Leaked
The skyrocketing popularity of Game of Thrones is evidenced by the fact that it is the most pirated show ever. As if to drive the point home, 4 episodes from season 5 leaked on the eve of the premiere. I can only assume that with the various legal streaming options now available to cord cutters, HBO execs are hoping that the leak doesn’t have a great effect on their bottom line.
However, it is worth noting that there was a lot of backlash for HBO limiting HBO NOW access to people with Apple devices. After all, the deal means Apple has exclusive rights to the service for the length of the entire fifth season of Game of Thrones. That means that people without Apple devices must either subscribe to Sling TV, purchase a cable subscription, or pirate the series.
Dear @hbo, I would happily pay for HBO Now, but I would never ever buy an Apple device just to do it.
— Jim Fletcher (@jimjfletcher) April 6, 2015
Was this leak a direct rebuttal to HBO’s Apple-exclusive deal?
Sling TV–Game of Thrones and More with Free 7-Day Trial for HBO and All Other Packages
Sling TV will continue to feature new episodes of Game of Thrones via their live HBO channel, which is a $15 add-on to the basic package. The basic Sling package is $20 per month, featuring a wide variety of channels including ESPN, AMC, TNT, and more.
Right now, potential customers can try any of Sling TV’s packages for free with their 7-day trial membership.