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HBO Now has officially arrived, and users will get at least a month of the service for free.
The premium cable channel announced its new online service at Apple's Spring Forward event last month saying that the standalone service would launch ahead of the April 12 season premiere of Game of Thrones. Although the service was initially announced as an Apple TV exclusive, reports indicate that HBO Now has gone live for both Apple TV/iOS users and for Optimum Online subscribers wishing to purchase the service. All users can receive 30 days of the service for free before being charged $14.99 per month. Like most cord-cutting services, HBO Now can be canceled at any time without incurring any penalties.
HBO Now gives users access to HBO's entire catalog of content — movies, documentaries, original programming, and so forth — without the need for a traditional cable subscription. It's the first time a premium channel has allowed such direct access for its fan base and a major turn around for Time Warner, HBO's parent company, which traditionally shunned the idea of offering standalone services.
HBO Now subscribers will get access to popular titles such as True Detective, Silicon Valley, and the aforementioned Game of Thrones. According to the HBO website, new episodes of original programing and theatrical films will air on HBO Now at the same time as they premiere on the HBO channel, however, other programs may have a delay of a few hours. The service can be used over the Web, on any iOS-based device, or via the Apple TV set-top box. (Optimum Online subscribers can sign up for the service here.)
However, HBO Now's true test will come on April 12 during the premiere of Game of Thrones. The show is HBO's most popular title to date and could create a significant surge in traffic. HBO hasn't been immune to service interruptions. Its HBO Go App buckled during the season finale of True Detective last year and some users fear HBO Now will meet a similar fate Sunday night. Already we've seen tech outlets such as The Verge and CNET experiencing problems signing into the HBO Now service.
Not to be outdone, Dish announced that HBO would also be available as an add-on option to its Sling TV for $15 per month. (A $20 base Sling TV subscription is required.) Users can add HBO to their package as of today, although it's unclear if streaming has actually commenced. Dish promised HBO service would be available in time for the Game of Thrones premiere.