Friday, May 27, 2011

Amazon, HBO, Unprepared for Demand or Aware and Unconcerned

This past week was an interesting one in that two monster companies offered promotional downloads that made their sites slow or inaccessible.  Amazon offered a Lady Gaga album for 99 cents in a daily deal and HBO offered an episode of Game of Thrones a week early.  For Amazon, the promotion seemed linked to their new cloud music player.  For HBO, it seemed more of a test of how many people use the HBO GO site and how much stress it can handle.

What was odd about both instances was how quickly they both failed.  Especially in the case of Amazon, you don't want to make people jump through hoops when the competition is Itunes.  The Cloud Player is generally pretty easy to use, albeit buggy and not as polished as it should be. For Amazon not to have the server power behind the promotion to make it run smoothly runs the risk of turning off almost as many people as would be attracted in the first place.  Its a poor gamble and not a good sign from a company that has been on top of its game for a long time.

I've liked Amazon for a long time but as they've grown the overall quality hasn't kept up.  For example, the recommendations engine is nowhere as good as what it was a few years ago.  There is no cross-pollination between categories, music doesn't influence mp3 downloads, books don't influence kindle downloads.  The newer engine seems so focus only on the most recent purchases so very often there are little or no recommendations or everything is based on immediate history only.  I hope they don't keep going for quantity over quality, there are good products at Amazon but the implementation is making them unusable.

With HBO, what was interesting was that they tried this in the first place.  Showing an episode of your top rated series a week before it will air on any of your cable partners is a bold move.  HBO didn't have the bandwidth to pull it off but that is something that should be easily fixable.  It'll be interesting to see if HBO goes this route again.  Given its ownership its unlikely that HBO will ever be too independent but its a step in the right direction. Also, when it finally worked the latest episode of Game of Thrones was awesome. Too bad its a two week wait now until the next one.

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