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Cable subscription, optional: Here’s how to watch ‘Game of Thrones’ online

Unless you’ve been living under The Wall for the past year — you know, that 300-mile stretch of fortification that runs along the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms — you’re probably aware that HBO’s smash fantasy series is set to return on Sunday, April 12, for its fifth season. It will continue to unfurl the brooding, incestuous bloodbath that is George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice, likely shocking new and old fans alike as it introduces more characters than most of us have the capacity to remember.

Related: What’s coming from GOT season 5 (and a look back at the cruelest cut)

Thankfully, though finding a legal and affordable way to stream the show hasn’t always been easy, the premium cable network has made watching the series easier than ever before. The recent launch of the standalone HBO Now on Apple products and Dish’s decision to launch live and on-demand versions of the network only provide diehard patrons more ways to watch, in addition to the network’s typical cable service and the accompanying HBO Go app. We sincerely doubt the extra means will likely prevent it from seizing the title as the most pirated show of the year for the fourth year running, but at least it’s now less of hassle to watch it guilt-free — so long as you have a bit of cash to spare and high tolerance for the occasional animal beheading.

‘Game of Thrones’ airs on Sunday evenings at 9PM ET through May 24, 2015.

Watch via HBO Go

Website | iOS | Android

Content is king, and no one provides content better than the source itself. HBO Go was the only official method of streaming Game of Thrones in high-definition prior to the announcement of the semi-exclusive HBO Now and Dish’s Sling TV package. It’s still a valid one, though, assuming you already have an HBO subscription with your respective cable provider. The excellent service provides unlimited access to all of HBO’s original programming — including past seasons of Game of Thrones and behind-the-scenes footage with the cast — along with the swath of theatrically-released films and television specials currently playing on the premium channel.

HBO Go Screenshot

However, as I previously mentioned, accessing HBO Go online or through the accompanying app requires you to purchase a premium HBO package. If you already have cable, you can expect an HBO subscription to cost you an upwards of $15 at the least, with the exact rate fluctuating based on your surrounding region and the host of available promotions. HBO Go is free once you opt for a subscription through participating TV providers, though, and accessible using the HBO Go website or a slew of different platforms ranging from Apple to Android. The list of supported platforms is listed below, but keep in mind HBO Go availability is based on your service provider and may not be available for certain platforms within a specified area. Nonetheless, each new episode of Game of Thrones will be available for viewing within HBO Go immediately upon airing.

Apple iPad PlayStation 4
Apple iPhone Xbox 360
Apple TV Xbox One
Apple iPod Touch Android phones
PlayStation 3 Android tablets
Amazon Fire TV Kindle Fire
Sony Smart TV Roku
Chromecast Various Web browsers

Watch via HBO Now

Website | iOS

There were rumors of a standalone HBO service well before the premium network announced such an offer would exist. The network initially announced the service during Apple’s recent Spring Forward event, subsequently revealing that the service would exclusively debut on a range of Apple devices before making its way elsewhere at an undisclosed date in the future. The service functions much like the aforementioned HBO Go — providing quick access to all past, present, and future HBO content — but without the need for a cable or satellite subscription.

HBO Now

The standalone service went live as of Tuesday, April 7. Subscriptions are currently available through Apple iTunes and Optimum for $15 a month, with a free 30-day trial period available for those who still aren’t committed to swearing their allegiance to the Cupertino-based tech giant. If you do, though, you’ll be able to immediately access the entirety of the Game of Thrones catalog alongside the latest episodes as they air using a compatible browser or any of the devices listed below. Apple’s exclusive hold on HBO Now may only be temporary, but until it lifts, it remains one of the few viable options for watching the award-winning series in your own living room.

Apple TV (iOS 7 or 8) Apple iPad (iOS 7 or 8)
Apple iPod Touch (iOS 7 or 8) Apple iPhone (iOS 7 or 8)

Watch via Sling TV

Website | iOS | Android

There’s a reason we named Dish Network’s Sling TV app our Best of Show at CES 2015. The Internet TV service has the potential to change the television industry forever, essentially offering up a-la-carte programming with the recent addition of HBO. There is one caveat, however, in that you must subscribe to Sling TV’s core package ($20) before you can add the optional HBO channel for an additional $15. The core package, appropriately dubbed the “Best of Live TV,” will also grant you access to ESPN, AMC, ABC Family, and TBS channels, among a host of others.

Sling TV

If you do decide to pony up the necessary $35 for the core offering and HBO, you’ll be able to access the same wealth of content you would if you decided to opt for HBO Go or HBO Now instead. You’ll have unrestrained access to all of network’s premium programming, from its award-winning documentaries to past seasons of Game of Thrones, directly within the Sling TV app. Moreover, unlike HBO Now, the Sling TV app is available across a wide range of devices (outlined below). It’s definitely one of the more expensive ways to go, but it does guarantee you’ll have immediate access new Game of Thrones episodes as they air in addition to a plethora of desirable channels. And did we mention Sling TV allows you to stream HBO on up to three devices simultaneously? Well it does, even if Sling TV typically enforces a single-stream limit.

Apple iPad Xbox One
Apple iPhone Roku
Apple iPod Touch Amazon Fire TV
Android phones Android tablets
Nexus Players (coming soon) Various Web browsers

Watch via a questionable streaming site

Sadly, legally streaming Game of Thrones is not an option for everyone. Many viewers can’t obtain access to HBO through any legal avenue, whether due to budgetary or regional restrictions. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that most illegal streaming options on the Web come bundled with unwanted spam and an onslaught of pop-pop advertisements.

Sidereel Image

Such drawbacks make finding reliable streams extremely difficult at times, while leaving you with audio and video feeds that never seem to quit buffering. Moreover, most of the controversial streaming sites — think Sidereel, Project Free TV, etc. — fall within the gray areas of the law given they provide links to copyrighted material. Nonetheless, you’ll likely find a diverse selection of links once you find a capable option, all of which you should access at your own risk. After all, the Web can be a dangerous place, particularly when you’re haphazardly clicking links.

Writer’s note: As a rule of thumb, never click on any link which asks you to download any HD Players, update your streaming software, or to install any “required” media players. These are often just spam links that could infect your computer with viruses.

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