HBO’s standalone streaming service HBO Now went live today on Apple devices, and became available for Cablevision customers. The service will allow subscribers to watch all of HBO’s current catalog, both live and on-demand, for $15 per month.
As was promised at Apple’s Spring Forward event, the service is live in time for subscribers to catch the season premiere of the powerhouse series Game of Thrones. Viewers will be able to catch the new season as it airs, along with Silicon Valley, a handful of forthcoming premieres, and HBO’s deep catalog of content.
HBO has been teasing the new service since October 2014, claiming the service was being prepped to go after the “80 million homes that do not have HBO,” and that the premium network would use “all means at (its) disposal to go after all of them.”
That said, the launch is somewhat of a humdrum affair given the lack of availability to so many of those 80 million homes. Aside from a relatively small collection of Cablevision subscribers in the New York region, only the Apple faithful will be invited to pony up their $15/month for the new service, and only Apple TV users will be able to conveniently watch on the big screen without some creative wiring from iPads and iPhones.
Apple’s semi-exclusive deal is reported to last for the first 3 months of the service. Presumably, HBO will then reach out to the sprawling list of competing hardware platforms, such as Amazon’s Fire TV and Fire TV streaming stick, Roku’s full family of devices, and Google’s Chromecast. The service was rumored to be working with five different device makers, though no other specifics have been announced. HBO’s live TV service and on-demand content will also be available on Dish’s Internet TV service, Sling TV, very soon, but that service requires a $20 basic subscription fee on top of the $15 HBO price.
Speculation as to why HBO Now will be exclusive to Apple has been rampant. It is possible Apple reached into its deep pockets in hopes of spinning the partnership into an opportunity to liquidate the last of its aging Apple TV inventory ahead of the launch of its next-gen device, expected to premiere in the coming months. Apple also lowered the price of its current Apple TV to $69.
It is also possible HBO views the exclusive arrangement as an opportunity to test the waters before the new streaming service launches en masse. As was evidenced by Sling TV’s recent misstep during this year’s Final Four airing, Web TV can be a tricky affair. HBO reportedly ran into issues while in initial development of the service, turning to MLB Advanced Media for help in developing HBO Now.
Whatever the reasons, for most users, HBO Now will only be available through Cupertino currency for the foreseeable future. Those ready to dive in can sign up for a free trial of HBO Now through the service’s webpage today.