Huge designed HBO GO, a suite of new mobile applications allowing HBO subscribers to watch the network's award-winning programming wherever they are.
HBO has long been known as a creator and provider of unique, creative entertainment. Its cutting-edge programming has garnered a cult following around shows and characters that continue to live on in feature films and other media. When HBO approached Huge, it was looking for ways to capitalize on digital and stay on pace with streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.
Huge aimed to strategically build off HBO’s inherent strength: not only is it the purveyor of compelling content, but it is also the owner and creator, affording it liberties and opportunities that other media aggregators cannot rival. And when we spoke to users, it was clear they wanted one thing: more access to the shows they love.
The HBO GO app leverages HBO’s library of award-winning and acclaimed original programming and hit films. The app provides HBO subscribers with instant access to thousands of titles, including every episode of every season of the best HBO shows.
Huge was determined to deliver the most compelling, intuitive design and established a flexible working relationship that allowed Huge’s designers and engineers to take an iterative, agile approach to making HBO GO. Our integrated strategy, design and user experience teams sketched every idea that came out of brainstorming, whether it applied to one page or the entire platform. Our technologists quickly turned these ideas into usable prototypes, which we then tested with actual users and shared with HBO. We looked at 28 different versions of the home screen, and sometimes created three prototypes in the same day.
Ultimately, we realized that we really wanted to do was create an immersive experience that takes the user directly to the content. We wanted HBO GO to change the medium for watching TV and alter viewers’ cognitive habits.
The main interface of the HBO GO app features a stunning, mosaic-like grid of captivating images from various HBO programs. The app allows viewers to begin watching the full-length content within the initial experience, minimizing click-through and maximizing usability across various devices. The display permits users to both view the entire breadth of content and easily immerse themselves in their desired selection.
Alongside the app’s video capabilities, Huge also designed an interactive viewing feature that provides users with access to relevant content to enhance the viewing experience. Interactive viewing launched in conjunction with the highly popular show Game of Thrones and allowed users to view maps of the show’s fantasy world, character profiles and other background information.
The suite of HBO GO mobile apps launched in April 2011—free of charge and available to HBO subscribers through participating television providers. On the first day of its release, the app made its way to the top-ranked position in Apple’s iTunes Store, and received 3 million downloads within the first month. To date, HBO GO is available on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android (phones and tablets), Roku, Xbox, Samsung TV and Amazon Kindle Fire—which means it reaches 90% of all HBO subscribers. At HBO’s request, Huge extended the concept for HBO GO to create MAX GO, a similar platform for HBO’s affiliate, Cinemax.
HBO GO continues to receive positive feedback from users and media alike—winning dozens of awards in multiple categories—and has dramatically shifted the viewing behaviors of HBO subscribers. The next step for Huge has been to carefully monitor the way users interact with the various versions of the app and collect relevant, instructive data to inform subsequent improvements and optimizations. These learnings are also influencing the design of new versions of the app for additional platforms, which are currently under development in preparation for launch in 2013. Interactive viewing experiences for more shows are forthcoming as well.
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