The last of the major premium TV networks has broken out of the cable bundle.
Cinemax, the refashioned premium cable channel owned by HBO, is now available to subscribers of Dish Network’s internet TV service, Sling TV. The channel will be offered as a $10 add-on to Sling’s $20-per-month base package, which includes ESPN, AMC, and CNN, among others. HBO is already available to Sling subscribers for $15 a month.
It’ll have the same set-up as HBO’s Sling offering: Subscribers will receive the live Cinemax channel as well access to all of its shows and movies on-demand.
Now, all of the “big four” American pay-TV networks are available on the internet in some way, without needing a traditional cable TV subscription:
- Cinemax: Sling TV
- HBO: HBO Now (standalone streaming service), Sling TV
- Showtime: Showtime (standalone streaming service), Amazon Prime, Hulu
- Starz: Amazon Prime
Starz is reportedly working on a standalone streaming service of its own. Cinemax, for now, isn’t. An HBO spokesperson told Quartz that the company has no plans to offer a standalone Cinemax service.
In rare circumstances, HBO will add original Cinemax shows to HBO Now, like when it briefly made the first season of the wickedly brilliant medical drama The Knick available on the streaming service ahead of its season two premiere. But it doesn’t appear that will happen more often—at least, not right now.
Just a few years ago, Cinemax was better known as “Skinemax”—the home to a seemingly endless catalog of soft-core pornography. But after tweaking its image and developing original content, HBO turned it into another serious cable TV player. Kary Antholis, the HBO executive in charge of Cinemax content, told Quartz last year that his goal was for the channel to become the “preferred second tier in premium television.” Second only to HBO, of course.
As HBO’s lesser, but also innovative sister channel, Cinemax seems ripe for experimentation with distribution. It’s unlikely that Sling TV is the channel’s internet endgame. But it’s unclear how else Cinemax might factor into HBO’s plans for the future. HBO has already rebuilt the Cinemax brand—now it’s time to build new ways to access it.