After years of rumors, it’s finally official: you’ll be able to watch HBO online without having to pay for a cable TV subscription – and without borrowing a friend’s HBO Go account.
Starting in April, viewers will be able to watch current HBO series and its back catalog of shows and movies for $14.99 per month. The new service was announced at Apple’s “Spring Forward” event in San Francisco on Monday.
“All you need to get HBO Now is a broadband connection and an Apple device,” HBO chief executive officer Richard Plepler said as he introduced the new streaming service.
HBO Now will launch exclusively on the Apple TV, though presumably support for other streaming devices, such as the Chromecast, the Roku, and the Amazon Fire TV, will be added in months to come. HBO Now can also be accessed through any Web browser.
If users subscribe to HBO Now from an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV sometime during the month of April, they’ll get a free month of service. And since the fifth season of Game of Thrones premieres on April 12, that means HBO Now subscribers can enjoy the first few episodes of the sword-and-sorcery epic without paying anything at all. HBO even unveiled a new Game of Thrones trailer at the Apple event to remind people that HBO Now is launching just in time for the new season of the hugely popular show.
Apple CEO Tim Cook also announced that the price of the Apple TV is dropping from $99 to $69, starting right away. The streaming market is crowded with inexpensive devices such as the $35 Chromecast and the $39 Amazon Fire TV Stick. This price drop helps bring the Apple TV more in line with other companies’ products. Mr. Cook also noted that more than 25 million Apple TVs have been sold to date, making it the single most popular dedicated device for streaming online content to a TV.
Cord-cutters – those who watch TV through online services such as Netflix and Hulu rather than paying for a cable subscription – have been clamoring for a standalone HBO service for years. But HBO is a subsidiary of entertainment conglomerate Time Warner, and executives frowned on the idea of unbundling the popular network from traditional cable and satellite subscription services. Last year, HBO finally announced that it was planning to introduce online-only streaming service in 2015, though pricing wasn’t announced at the time.