HBO Go versus Netflix.
The HBO Go streaming service has actually been available in Malaysia for a year or so, but it’s only been exclusively available for Astro customers during that period of time. It was finally made available for everyone else to subscribe earlier in May 2020, at the price of RM35.90 per month.
With HBO Go, subscribers will be able to access original content by HBO and HBO Asia, as well as a library of movies, TV series and documentaries. That’s not even mentioning the six live TV channels, which includes HBO, HBO Hits, HBO Family, HBO Signature, Red By HBO, and Cinemax.
How To Sign Up For HBO Go
Despite now being made available to non-Astro subscribers as well, it’s ridiculously weird how harder it is to subscribe to HBO Go compared to the smoother and more seamless experience of subscribing to Netflix.
To subscribe to HBO Go, you need to have access to one of three things: Google Play, iTunes or an Astro account (or alternatively with the Astro Movie Pack). For more details, you can head on over to the official FAQ here.
In the beginning, I tried simply signing up on a web browser for HBO GO (like I did with Netflix years ago), and to my surprise, it wouldn’t allow me to do so unless I already had an Astro account.
I had to go to my phone and download the HBO Go app to continue the process of signing up.
What’s even more insulting is that for some reason, the app forces me to set a parental control pin before I can even start streaming anything.
I had to go through all that before I could finally start streaming HBO Go. It’s also a bit of a hassle that my HBO Go account has to be tied with my Google Play account, when (in comparison) my Netflix account doesn’t have to be tied to anything else.
Another thing I’d like to point out is that while HBO Go’s price of RM35.90 is cheaper than Netflix’s Standard plan’s price of RM45 (both offer similar HD packages), HBO Go only offers a one-week free trial while Netflix offers significantly more value with a one-month trial.
HBO Go: What It Offers
The best thing about HBO Go is that you’ll be able to watch a lot of content under the umbrella of Warner Bros.
The biggest advantage of HBO Go is allowing subscribers to stream all the latest HBO Original Series, like the recently-concluded Season 3 of Westworld, His Dark Materials, Avenue 5, Watchmen, and more.
There are also a bunch of great (or at least, interesting) series that’s difficult to find or watch elsewhere, like Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone reboot, The Handmaid’s Tale, and more. All of these shows are currently not available on Netflix, and most likely never will, which translates to a powerful trump card for HBO Go to flaunt over its fiercest competitors.
Despite HBO’s reputation still being haunted and diminished by the mess that was the final season of Game Of Thrones, HBO Go can still rely on the power of its own original content, which retains that same “premium” feeling that has always been associated with the brand ever since the early days of Band Of Brothers and The Sopranos.
Speaking of those old classics, they’re also available to stream on HBO Go.
That’s right, including the aforementioned Band Of Brothers and The Sopranos, as well as previously-cancelled (but critically-acclaimed all the same) series like Rome, Deadwood, and more.
As a comic book fan, I was delighted to also find a healthy selection of DC Comics movies and animated films. However, the library isn’t exactly as up-to-date as I would have liked.
For example, the most recent DC Comics animated movie was Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, which was supposed to have initially launched on digital platforms on 5 May 2020. I went to the Warner Bros. official website, and I discovered that I could buy the movie digitally from various platforms.
The latest DC Comics animated series on HBO Go is Reign Of The Supermen, which initially launched in early 2019. As such, the streaming service is missing not one, but three of the latest DC Comics animated entries, including the aforementioned Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. In another similar case, Shazam! is available on HBO Go, but not Joker and Birds Of Prey.
As I previously mentioned, you can expect mostly Warner Bros. properties on HBO Go, ranging from 2019’s Godzilla: King Of The Monsters, 2018’s Bumblebee, 2019’s Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians, 2019’s Rocketman, and more.
As for older stuff, I feel like Warner Bros.’ forte has always been in the drama, horror, and science fiction genres.
The HBO Go library still isn’t really comprehensive or extensive though.
For instance, it offers the iconic 1986 James Cameron movie Aliens and the not-much-of-a-classic Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem, but none of the other movies from the same franchise.
You should expect a lot of holes if you plan to revisit any sequels or famous movies, as it’s likely that HBO Go won’t have most of them.
There’s also a disparity between the UI of the mobile and browser versions of HBO Go.
For instance, Netflix features a dedicated Continue Watching tab, where users can find everything they’re watched and just resume from where they left off from previous sessions.
The HBO Go mobile app does have the same feature right on the home page, but it’s weirdly hidden on the browser version, where you have to select the Watchlist tab to find the Continue Watching tab.
Also, while this may be a bit nitpicky, I don’t appreciate the HBO logo being on the top right corner of everything I watch on HBO Go. I know that’s always been the case for HBO channels on cable TV, but why is it still happening on the streaming service? Netflix doesn’t do it, nor does any other streaming service that I know of. It’s just annoying, that’s all.
Everything else is fine on HBO Go feature-wise. Just like Netflix, you can add series or movies into your Watchlist, rewind or fast forward 10 seconds at the click of a button, and there are several subtitle options from Mandarin, English and Malay most of the times. You can even customize the font, size and background of your subtitles on HBO Go, which you can’t do on Netflix (to my knowledge).
Is It A Worthy Rival To Netflix?
The biggest weakness of HBO Go right now is in regards to the content.
The HBO Go library isn’t as comprehensive, extensive or varied as Netflix’s.
Netflix also has a much better (and assured) constant flow of new content every month, while HBO Go will have to depend on HBO Originals and Warner Bros. properties.
Sure, one could argue that the quality of HBO Originals wins over the vastly higher quantity of Netflix Originals, but lack of steady new content could be a problem.
As of right now, Netflix is still the better streaming service option here in Malaysia in almost every way. Unless you’re a really huge fan of HBO Originals and Warner Bros. properties, I wouldn’t recommend HBO Go over Netflix anytime soon. That might change soon with the launch of HBO Max later this month, but there’s currently no indication that the new streaming service will be launching in Malaysia anytime soon.