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HBO Now Goes Live in Time for 'Game of Thrones,' and the First Month is Free

Can the standalone service survive its first stress test, the Sunday premiere of Game of Thrones?
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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.

The First Premium Channel to Go Standalone

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.)

Will HBO Now Perform Well With High Demand?

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.


Senior Writer Emeritus

With over a decade of experience covering technology, Louis Ramirez has written for CNET, Laptop, Gizmodo, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @louisramirez.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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6 comments
Jonathan Y (DealNews)
I'm sure that cable companies have more leverage in regards to offering discounts on packages due to the number of subscribers they have. They can charge the $15 rate per month because they know that there are many willing to pay that price. It's economics 101 (Supply and Demand).
HowardaC
That still doesn't change the fact that it's overpriced.

Again, look at WWE networks pricing. Assuming you would get the ppvs each month you save 20 dollars a month. The reason is streamed tv is of an inferior quality to regular tv.
Anthony S Jennings
HBO Now is for people who would never subscribe to a television package from their cable provider. It largely is not for anyone who a) already subscribes to premium cable and/or b) want their premium cable to be a bit more portable and not tethered to their home.

Again, HBO Now is primarily for people who would otherwise never subscribe to HBO.

As for the 14.99 price: you can get a 10%-25% discount on this monthly subscription by purchasing discounted iTunes gift cards on eBay and subscribing to HBO Now via in-app purchase.
HowardaC
I think this would be better if the price was more reasonable. I don't know about other parts of America, but in this area the price for a HBO subscription via the cable company is 15 bucks a month as well.

The thing is, the cable company will knock off 5 bucks or so with certain bundles, so it's actually CHEAPER to stick with cable.

That's not how it's supposed to work for inferior, compressed streaming. They need to take a page from WWE networks and offer the service at an extremely discounted rate compared to cable. (WWE networks is just 9.99 a month and it includes their 30 dollar monthly ppvs for free) At this point there is no real benefit to switching unless you are one of these people that have completely gotten rid of cable tv.
Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)
(It helps too that the first month will be free... better than Hulu Plus which only has one week free.)
Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)
I will probably end up subscribing to this, like, an hour before the Game of Thrones premiere because I can't stand the fact that it will be on and I can't watch it immediately. I cut cable in October though so it'll still be less than what I was paying to watch it last season...