You will be able to watch HBO channels without pirating or a cable subscription, thanks to the long-awaited standalone service coming to Apple devices – and eventually everywhere else.
HBO Now: Standalone Basics
HBO Now on Apple TV is designed to bring you HBO content without the need for a cable subscription. Previous to Now, you needed to pay for cable through a traditional provider, and then pay extra to access HBO separately – that was the only way to watch HBO shows and movies. (which is why such channels are known as “cable TV”).
A standalone option, a way to view HBO without paying for cable, has been in demand for years, but HBO took its time developing such a service. After all, cable contracts are profitable things, and HBO has some of the most in-demand shows around, like True Detective and Game of Thrones. But this popularity also gave HBO an especially strong reason to offer a standalone service for people who didn’t want to pay for cable – the number of cable-cutters, as well as the number of pirating viewers downloading copies off the net, continues to grow. HBO Now is an attempt to meet the new generation of viewers halfway.
This is seen as a tremendous win for those who would rather skip cable but still keep up with the latest shows, although other cable channels have been slow to follow suit (not so with network TV like CBS, which is also offering a standalone service).
All right, to the details: The HBO Now app appears to resemble the current HBO Go app, in that it offers all the content on the channel in its own unique format, and you can use it across a number of different mobile and TV devices. The price? It will cost $14.99 per month, which may be more or less than you would pay for HBO as part of cable, depending on your location. However, there are a few difficulties regarding availability.
Getting HBO Now on Apple TV: Availability Issues
Yes, HBO has contracted with Apple for its first release of HBO Now in April 2015. That’s right, the app will be limited to iPhones, iPads, Macs, and a separate channel on Apple TV. Unless you have an Apple device, you won’t be able to watch HBO Now digitally, at least not at first.
Don’t worry, the HBO Now on Apple TV and iOS exclusivity will probably only last a few months. The good news: After that, HBO is expected to move toward all other major platforms. The bad news: That’s also after all the seasons of majors shows like Veep, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and so on have ended.
There also appears to be a deal in the works to make HBO available through Cablevision, still as a standalone service, but only through Cablevision’s Optimum Online Internet service.
Exclusivity and Waiting to Cut the Cord
While HBO Go is an important stride in the history of streaming live TV, it is only one channel, and $14.99 may be a lot to pay for one channel. This is especially true when compared to other growing standalone options like CBS (which charges only several dollars per month) or Sling TV (which offers dozens of channels starting at $20 per month). In other words, you have to really like HBO and dislike cable to make Now irresistible – and HBO is banking a lot on its current irresistibility.
This, plus the exclusivity with Apple products, does push some customers to the sidelines, at least for the present. A couple years down the road, the app may become HBO’s primary way of delivering content, especially if the price is lowered.
The Price Effect: Is it Worth It?
There’s another consideration when thinking about adopting HBO Now: The results of competition. You see, cable companies aren’t big fans of HBO Now, and they have a powerful weapon on their side in the ability to change prices. This is why we are seeing sudden price drops in adding HBO Go for as little as $10 from some providers, at least for the next year. It’s a good idea to check providers in your area and see what their online prices look like.