HBO’s streaming service for cord cutters: What we know, what we think we know, and what we don’t know yet

Shedding some light on the future of HBO.
Shedding some light on the future of HBO.
Image: HBO/Helen Sloan
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Last updated on April 7, 2015, with news of HBO Now’s launch.

Key to reading this story

What we know for certain
What we think we know
What we don’t yet know

HBO’s forthcoming streaming service

As of April 7, HBO has launched a subscription service in the US in April that will let people watch its shows over the internet without also having to pay for cable television.

The service is called HBO Now, to distinguish from its existing service HBO Go, which is merely the internet component of HBO for people who pay for it as part of a cable package. HBO expects to reel in 10 to 15 million cord cutters with the service.

The service launched on Apple devices, including the Apple TV, iPad, and iPhone, for $15 a month. HBO will offer a 30-day free trial to customers who sign up in April. Once you sign up, you’ll also be able to access it via the web at For the first three months, Apple will be the exclusive internet-only provider of HBO Now.

HBO Now will also be available through some existing partners of the network, like pay TV companies. The first to announce its plan to offer the service is Cablevision, which serves some areas surrounding New York City. HBO Now will also cost $15 per month through Cablevision.

Other devices, like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, PlayStation, Xbox, and Google’s Chromecast, are also likely to partner with HBO after Apple’s three-month exclusive window expires.

HBO has outsourced the service to Major League Baseball Advanced Media—the baseball league’s internet arm, which is renowned for its excellence in streaming media.

Cox Communications is also interested in partnering with HBO to offer the service as an add-on to an internet package. The major cable providers, like Comcast and Time Warner Cable, may eventually cut similar deals with HBO. They’ve already begun dropping prices on HBO cable subscriptions in anticipation of the new service’s debut. 

HBO Now houses all the same content as HBO Go, which includes current and old shows, documentaries, sports, and a vast movie library on-demand.

But otherwise, HBO Now is a completely different product than HBO Go, with separate log-ins and a redesigned user experience. While HBO Go subscribers can also watch HBO on television whenever they want, HBO Now subscribers will not have that luxury—all interaction they have with the network will be over the internet.

And for the first time, HBO will have to handle its own customer service. Currently, if your cable were to go out during Game of Thrones, you’d complain to your cable provider, not HBO. But if a stream on HBO Now doesn’t work, HBO will have to field thousands of phone calls. Of course, the company could outsource customer service to a third party, but that comes with a host of potential problems in itself.

An HBO spokesman told Quartz that HBO Now will not include Cinemax shows. When asked if HBO would launch an equivalent “Cinemax Now” service, he responded, “not at this time.” Once mostly a destination for softcore pornography, Cinemax is now a legitimate player in the pay TV industry, symbolized by its auteur-created headline series The Knick. Depending on your cable provider, Cinemax can either be a packaged deal with HBO, or it can come separately.

Time Warner, which owns both companies, already has Max Go in place—the Cinemax equivalent to HBO Go, and those with HBO Go logins can’t access Max Go unless they also have a Cinemax subscription. Given that HBO seems serious about developing Cinemax into, perhaps, the second best pay cable channel, the company may, sometime down the line, launch a Cinemax version as well.

Time Warner is, however, considering adding other shows from Turner Broadcasting channels (which the company also owns) like TNT, TBS, and Cartoon Network. An HBO spokesman said that there are currently no plans to do so, despite the report, which cited people familiar with the situation. 

HBO Now will not have pricing tiers, even though Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes has floated the idea of pricing tiers in the past. It will launch exclusively in the United States, but the company has said they are “exploring opportunities” in other countries.

There will be a dedicated VICE News channel on HBO Now, featuring a daily newscast, among other news programs.


HBO CEO Richard Plepler announces the new service in a conference call with investors | The potential problems HBO could run into launching a brand new streaming product | HBO outsources the streaming infrastructure to MLB Advanced Media | International Business Times report detailing the name of the service and its price | Some cable providers interested in partnering with HBO | HBO Go is poorly designed | HBO is grooming Cinemax into a major player in cable television | Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes floats the idea of pricing tiers | Plepler doesn’t care if you’re sharing your HBO Go login information | Analysts mulling who HBO’s partners will be | Cablevision’s announcement that it will offer the service | Time Warner is considering adding other shows from Turner Broadcasting networks | HBO Now will have a VICE News channel