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Variety tests HBO Go app

Variety's evaluation of the cabler's latest endeavor

There’s something very addictive about watching video on Apple’s iPad. And now, with the HBO Go app, there’s even more reason to keep staring at the handheld flatscreen. ABC has been the TV network to beat when it comes to the quality and ease of use of its video player. But now HBO takes no prisoners with its HBO Go app that offers its premium content, like “Game of Thrones” and “True Blood,” on Apple’s various platforms and Google-powered smartphones and tablets.

Service is available via Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market, where it was downloaded more than 1 million times a week after its bow April 29.

There’s a catch, however: users need to be subscribers of both HBO and a cabler or satcaster that carries the channel.

But other than those pre-existing fees, there’s no additional cost.

The move is pretty innovative, providing an answer for channels looking for ways to offer subscription-based programming and discourage cord-cutting. The only other legal way for users who don’t subscribe to HBO to get its programming is via DVD or Blu-ray.

There’s a lot to like about HBO Go. For one, it’s a rare example of software that’s been specifically designed to revolve around the entertainment and not just treat videos as an afterthought. Plus, it works with few, if any, glitches and has no commercials.Still, there are drawbacks: when the Internet connection slows the video gets glitchy. But users of Netflix and Hulu Plus are used to this on their iPads, vidgame consoles and laptops.

If there’s an Achilles heel, it’s that HBO Go doesn’t go everywhere. Although discussions are under way, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and Insight Cable do not yet support it. This locks out a large portion of HBO viewers in Los Angeles and New York until technical and contractual issues can be hammered out, the companies say.

Still 80% of HBO’s customers are covered through Comcast Xfinity TV, Verizon FiOS, Cox Advanced TV, AT&T’s U-Verse, Suddenlink, DirecTV and Dish Network.

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