Is Video On Demand Prepared To Be The Future Of TV?

HBO Go users in the United States were left frustrated earlier this week. It was the series finale of the immensely popular mini series True Detective; a show that stars recent Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey alongside Woody Harrelson as a pair of Louisiana detectives trying to solve a series of occult murders. The show has been praised as one of the best programs produced by the network since its glory days of The Sopranos and The Wire. However, when fans attempted to tune in online and watch the episode via HBO’s video on demand service HBO Go, they were met with this error message: ‘Failed to load the service error definitions.’

HBO GO were quick to respond to the fans, who were waiting with baited breath to find out the identity of the show’s enigmatic Yellow King. They were told that the¬†huge amount of fascination¬†in the season finale of True Detective” caused the server to crash. They explained that it came from a colossal surge of traffic around 9PM ET”.

We have been told repeatedly how video on demand will be the future of television. Many people have already begun cutting the cord and using online television entirely as a result. But while the future of television may be here, the problems with this week’s True Detective finale on HBO Go raises an important question: is video on demand TV prepared to be the future?

Video On Demand Content Can Be Problematic And Limited

There are many advantages to cutting the cord. It’s more cost effective, it avoids advertisement and gives you the freedom to choose what you want to watch when you want to watch it. But the biggest problem facing on demand television is that, although it is clearly in high demand, there are still many networks that aren’t prepared to open their arms and welcome it in yet. Because online streaming doesn’t have the lucrative advertising revenues and licensing deals as broadcast television, they’re still hoping that video on demand will be an alternative solution rather than a primary option.

Amazon and Netflix have taken steps away from this by producing their own online shows like House Of Cards and Alpha House. However, the likes of Sky Go, Channel 4oD and HBO Go still appear to be stuck in this mindset. They are considered more as catch-up services rather than a hub for television content. The same could be said of BBC iPlayer but they have taken positive steps by producing exclusive content and extending their catch-up to 30 days rather than 7.

On demand TV is no longer an alternative though, no matter how much networks like these might wish differently. Almost 10% of United States households have eliminated their pay-TV subscriptions in favour of online players. Therefore, networks who are still clutching onto the bygone format of TV are unprepared in both their business strategy and technology. Servers are often unable to handle excessive traffic, for instance, as HBO Go showed with the crash on Monday night which The Guardian are calling “the second-biggest website failure of the young century”. It’s not just them either; a quick Google search shows thousands of examples of people whose 4oD has suffered similar results.

Is It Ready To Be The Future Of TV?

Is video on demand TV prepared to be the future then? At the moment, there are still a great many services that aren’t, as the True Detective debacle proves. On demand may not be an ideal option and it certainly proves a challenge for networks who are attempting to produce blockbuster content without the revenue that broadcast provides. However, if networks don’t begin committing to it — really committing to it — and continue to suffer technical hiccups and limited content, the people who have cut the cable will simply turn to piracy. The future of TV is here and networks need to be ready to embrace it.