So, I Have Some Good News And Bad News About Roku's HBO Button

This HBO Now button does what it should, sort of.


At the start of the year, I lamented the loss in functionality of one of my Roku remote's buttons after Sony shuttered its PlayStation Vue streaming service. As it happens, this turned out to rank rather low on the list of 2020's biggest problems, but I return to you this December with both good and bad news.

I've recently begun using the Roku remote from another device, my Roku Ultra. It works a lot like my Roku Streaming Stick+'s remote, albeit with a much bulkier frame that makes me feel as if I'm holding a deeply stale Twinkie (I'm not sure if that's a physical state that a Twinkie can attain, but hopefully you understand). It also has added A and B buttons that are oddly positioned. I don't know what they do, but they are new and different from what I'm accustomed to, and thus they frighten me. I don't plan to investigate the situation further.

Above those two is the standard layout of four buttons that jump you directly into an app. Netflix and Hulu are both welcome as such prominent streaming services. A third is for Sling, a service that I do not subscribe to, thus making it function as nothing more than an advertisement. So that's not great. But, on the bright side, it at least continues to exist, and so I begrudge it less than I do the continued blight that is the Vue button on my other remote.

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The fourth--and here's where I started to bite my nails, because I am a deeply anxious person who can and will use any excuse to bite my nails--is HBO Now. As you may or may not know--and you might not, because HBO's naming conventions in recent years requires a Pepe Silvia-level of investigation to comprehend--HBO Now is now dead. HBO Go is also gone. In their place is HBO Max. HBO Max was frustratingly unavailable on Roku devices for months, but that changed just recently, which is fortunate with Wonder Woman 1984's streaming launch soon set to undermine the world of pee break journalism.

With HBO Now now gone, was I left with another remote containing a relic of the past, I wondered. Nervously, I pressed the button on my robust, snack cake-like remote, waited a moment, and was gloriously presented with the HBO Max splash screen. Elated, I raised both my arms into the air, thrilled with what would qualify as the second piece of good news in this entire godforsaken year, only to suddenly be faced with the app-selection screen again. Confused, I pushed the button again and went through the same process, this time with a brief glimpse at HBO Max's Home screen, before being sent back to the main Roku menu. I manually selected the HBO max app and encountered no such issues.

And so it seems that utilizing the HBO Now button opens the correct app but causes it to crash, effectively rendering the button as useless as jeans or any formal clothing that is out of a view of a Zoom call screen have been for me this year. While I commend Roku for seemingly recognizing that the HBO Now button should now open HBO Max, I am disappointed with this tease. Here's hoping that Sling button redirects to the right app after Amazon is done buying everything in a few years.

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