HBO WENT: Older Rokus Lose HBO GO

Dave Zatz —  July 16, 2015

As older TiVo set-tops losing Amazon Instant and YouTube, Roku has drawn a line in the sand with similar partner responses. No Roku players produced prior to May 2011 (a lifetime ago in this space) will receive software updates. And, as app complexity and hardware requirements increase, existing channels will be dropped. Namely HBO GO – which was retired this week:

Beginning July 14th 2015, HBO GO will no longer be available on the Classic Roku devices. HBO strives to offer its customers the best possible experience on the Roku platform. Due to Roku’s discontinued support of the classic Roku players, HBO would be unable to guarantee a great video experience on these Classic Roku devices. Classic Roku players (those made before May 2011) have a more limited experience than current generation Roku players due to ongoing changes in software. Unfortunately, HBO Go will no longer be compatible with these devices

Time marches forward and this really isn’t a case of forced obsolescence. Not to mention, as with Amazon on TiVo, Roku will throw you a bone — offeringing a 20% discount on any new Roku 1, 2, or 3.

We understand this may be an inconvenience and we’re offering a discount if you are eligible so that you can update your player. Please email promohelp@roku.com for instructions.

18 responses to HBO WENT: Older Rokus Lose HBO GO

  1. This is exactly why smart TVs are such a bad idea.

  2. “this really isn’t a case of forced obsolescence”

    It’s not? Taking away something that formerly worked fine….

    This is more like a company cutting costs by deciding to not support software for the older device. It’s not that hard (or uncommon) to maintain a frozen SW version for specific devices.

    It seems like every time I buy a tech device or use a service (like any from Google), I have to ask myself “When will the vendor stop support or the service”?

  3. Agree it’s a widespread phenomenon in the tech industry. For example, I highly doubt many (any?) Android phones sold prior to May 2011 are still receiving updates… which means there may not be certain apps available or existing apps no longer work properly due to the app itself changing.

    I agree that this seems mostly to be a cost-based decision by Roku and HBO to move onto the next thing vs ongoing development or frozen SW for a period of time as you suggest. And it’s worth mentioning some channels were never available to those platforms, like a richer Netflix experience, due to hardware limitations. But, to me, it doesn’t feel like they’re doing it in an unreasonable timeframe. Nor do I feel they are doing it solely to make you upgrade to the next thing. Although it may very well have that impact for some.

    I suspect the reaction would be much different if/when Netflix is pulled… the two companies may have to keep that channel frozen or even in development indefinitely.

    A $100 2009 Roku probably still beats a $300 2009 Apple TV? ;)

    David’s point is also a good one. Although most of the higher quality TVs get apps whether you want them or not and I am still tempted by a 32″ Roku TV to move between kitchen and deck.

  4. “this really isn’t a case of forced obsolescence … It’s not? Taking away something that formerly worked fine….”

    Personally, I’m outraged that Adobe has stopped supporting Flash on my perfectly functional TRS-80, thus rendering my YouPorn subscription useless! And even worse, I don’t even know who to blame. Should I blame Tandy, Adobe, or YouPorn?

    ——

    “This is exactly why smart TVs are such a bad idea.”

    This is a completely selfish perception. Sure smart TV’s suck for consumers, since Roku’s are cheap enough to be essentially disposable. But smart TV’s are a very, very good idea for TV manufacturers, for this exact reason, and I think we should prioritize their perspective over ours.

  5. Dave/David,

    I wonder what percentage of owners maker use of smart TVs. I know that I have a couple, and after initial experimenting I have never used the smarts on the TVs. A $50 Roku seems to eliminate the usefulness of smart TV features. Are there any stats on usage of smart TV capabilities?

  6. I’m assuming HBO is actually going to be developing a new app with an updated UI. Having developed a Roku channel in the past, you can tell HBO is using the standard Roku SDK. They are probably going to be updating it to something like what Netflix and Plex did. That is using a newer SDK that doesn’t support the older models. I expect a lot more channels to start doing the same thing, especially from Roku “partners” that actually have the option to use the different SDK. Roku needs to do something to compete with newer products like the Fire TV.

  7. Grant: Roku is already pretty competitive with Fire TV. The only thing Roku really needs to do to be more competitive with Fire TV is add HBO Now and Fox Sports Go to its channel lineup. (IMHO, anyway.)

  8. I still prefer Roku to Fire TV… and I own some of both. :)

  9. There is a difference between not updating and app and disabling an app.

  10. Roku isn’t competitive in the sense of new UI design. Their current development kit contains really old fashion looking designs compared to say the Fire TV which has a whole lot more options. So while your right that they have comparatively the same channels, the stuck design Roku has needs to be updated to compete with newer boxes.

    dwgsp: your right about that. But I’m positive they have the numbers of people still on those devices. If it was thousands, I’m guessing they wouldn’t be doing it. It is probably more like a few hundred still using them. Your talking about devices that were discontinued 4-6 years ago. At one point the cost of support is going to be greater then the bad press to discontinue supporting old devices.

  11. Thanks for your report. I wondered if my three Roku 3 devices were going to lose the HBO Go app, so I chatted up Roku support and they refused to tell me how to find the manufacture date of my devices, saying it’s not possible to tell. Roku did tell me that my models were released in March, 2013, and would continue to support HBO Go.

  12. Grant, I don’t know – I find much of the Fire TV UI to be cluttered and non-intuitive. There’s something to be said for Roku’s simpler presentation. Although the old, original apps and SDK are awful – agree there. At least it’s fast and content is king at the end of the day.

    Regarding numbers, I bet there are still thousands of Netflix users on those older boxes… think a variation of that app will remain for awhile. It’d get real ugly otherwise.

  13. Just offering my thoughts on a couple subjects mentioned here.

    The Roku is still the best streaming box UI that I’ve tried. I regularly use Tivo Roamio Pro and Premiere, Chromecast and Fire stick. I love the snappy response times offered by the Roku 3. The recently improved Roamio Pro interface is not bad, but Roku is clearly better.

    I am still reluctant to switch the TV input away from the Roamio Pro to Roku, Premiere, Chromecast and Fire stick. It just seems too slow. I said TV input, but I actually use an AV Receiver (Pioneer 822) with six HDMI inputs. It’s easier to change inputs on the Pioneer because it requires only a single button press. It would be easier to change inputs on the TV if hooked up that way because the Tivo remote is always at hand. Going through my five input devices sequentially would be VERY cumbersome.

  14. My VERY old Roku still has HBO stuff in its Amazon Video channel.

    it even has subtitles which Netflix never has had on this box.

  15. Dave I agree with you about Netflix. Though I’d wager that the numbers for Netflix installations vs. HBO GO is pretty significant. It is kind of like Tivo shutting down the games stuff. I’m sure Tivo had the number of users who accessed those games and decided it wasn’t enough users to maintain it any longer.

  16. No problem – my older Roku devices have all died, anyway (Rokus are the least reliable of all the OTT boxes I’ve owned)

    My Roku 3 boxes still work, though one won’t pair with any RF remote, so I’m using an old Roku 2 IR remote with it.

    But as Chucky notes, OnePass has allowed me to essentially retire my home Roku in favor of my (faster & more reliable) base Roamio.

  17. “But as Chucky notes, OnePass has allowed me to essentially retire my home Roku in favor of my (faster & more reliable) base Roamio.”

    Now how do we explain to Dave how this all works? Friends don’t let friends not be aware of the beautiful marriage of OnePass and OTT.

    It’s like trying to troubleshoot a PC problem for your grandma…

  18. Unless one buys a small screen rock bottom HDTV, it is almost impossible to find decent mid to high end HDTV’s that do NOT have Smart TV functionality, along with Blu-ray players to boot. Agreed, those Blu-rays and Smart TV’s can be quite DUMB trying to get them to perform even HALF as good as a Roku. Clearly, the whole Smart TV and Blu-ray OTT functions is all about added value to the TV and Blu-ray makers, and considering now much money most are losing to Vizio, they need as much added value as they can think of.

    I will say that I do use the SmartTV functions is two room because I refuse to plunk down money for a Roku when we watch OTT in those 2 rooms not that often. I can’t justify the money for another Roku. So, the SmartTV is a money saver and functions well enough, although inferior to the Roku and sometimes has very frustrating episodes compared to Roku.

    Now, in the room with both the Smart TV and the Roku, it is the Roku that is ALWAYS used and that is because we OTT there far more often, and the added wireless earbuds for the Roku 3 are great for the hearing impaired. We forget the HDTV is a Smart TV because we never use it in the room. I would rather have the TV makes spend the money on the core HDTV functions and save us all the frustrations and money Smart TV’s cost.