Update: Comcast and Microsoft acknowledge problems. See end of post.
Getting the giants of digital media to play nice together is like inviting a Red Sox fan and a born-in-pinstripes Yankee fan to have a civilized conversation about baseball over a couple of beers.
It’s not gonna happen.
I had grand dreams this morning of my Xbox 360 creeping closer to being a full-time digital media hub. And those aforementioned digital media giants looked like they were going to play ball.
First up was HBO, which sent this press release this morning:
We are excited to announce today that HBO GO® has officially launched on Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE, the online entertainment service for Xbox 360. With HBO GO on Xbox, consumers will be able to instantly access more than 1,400 titles, including every episode of every season of the best HBO® shows – streamed to their TVs for convenient, on-demand viewing from the comfort of home. HBO GO is available at no additional cost to HBO customers who subscribe through a participating television provider.
That was followed almost immediately on my radar by this blog post from Xbox spokesman extraordinaire Major Nelson:
Today three major entertainment apps are now available for Xbox LIVE Gold members – Comcast XFINITY TV, HBO GO and MLB.TV, all with Kinect integration.
Sounds awesome. I’m a longtime HBO subscriber (more than a decade) and I’ve been a satisfied Comcast subscriber for five years, with very few complaints after some initial hiccups.
But today’s announcements? The prelude to frustration.
First, I decided to sign up for HBO Go. The website (hbogo.com) had no trouble allowing me to register, and it accepted Comcast (Xfinity) as my cable provider. Here’s what it looked like in my browser:
Looky there. The HBO logo on the left, the Xfinity logo in the middle, my user name on the right. Surely this will work.
So I take a trip to the Xbox console, download the HBO Go app, and am greeted with this:
You might not be able to read that entire list, but I could. The list of supported TV providers does not include Comcast. A quick email to HBO PR confirmed that Comcast subscribers are SOL:
We are encouraging HBO subscribers at non-participating television providers to reach out to their provider and request that they add support for HBO GO on Xbox.
It is HBO’s ongoing goal to provide our acclaimed programming to subscribers whenever and wherever they want it. We believe the launch of HBO GO on Xbox 360 is a huge step in accomplishing that and we are hopeful that all of our distributors will chose to support the service on the Xbox platform.
Maybe Comcast’s Xfinity service will be a worthy alternative. Given that I pay Comcast more than $200 a month for cable and Internet service, you’d think this would be easy, right?
Around lunchtime, the Xbox console finally told me the Xfinity app was available for download. So I installed it and then went through what should be a simple login: enter my Comcast username and password, authenticate, start watching program.
Ha ha ha.
The Xbox authentication screen just sneered at my login credentials, which work fine on the web. Eventually, I got to this error. Code 802, for those who are tracking such things:
I chatted with two support reps online, who asked the same basic questions over and over and finally gave up. One told me this, with the chat window equivalent of a poker face:
we have just verified and that Xfinity and Xbox has yet to confirm the compatibility of the software being used, Ed.
All righty, then. Is there any timeframe on when it will be working, I asked.
I am sorry about that but we also were not given a head up about this. They have [not] provided any time frame but it is being worked on.
I am not the only Xbox Live Gold subscriber experiencing these problems. On Twitter, I have gotten a steady stream of problem reports from people experiencing this and other messages. And Kip Kniskern, who runs the LiveSide website, posts this, with his usual dry, understated headline:
Since we’re not able to sign in to the Xfinity app, we can’t tell if HBO Go is available (although we don’t pay for HBO here, so that point is probably moot).
We’ll keep hammering the authentication servers until we get in, which is what everyone else is probably doing and why it doesn’t work in the first place, but hey, it’s what we do.
Meanwhile, I’m putting a cover over the Xbox so I’m not tempted to try to configure this app again tonight. I’m also eagerly awaiting a response from Comcast’s award-winning social media team, which reached out to help after I expressed my frustration on Twitter. I’ll let you know how that works out.