HBO Finally Unveils Its Standalone Streaming Service: HBO NOW

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It’s been about two years since I cut the cord and left cable behind. Sure, it’s nice to have options, but at the end of the day I just found myself and my family zoning out to random shows and asking why we really need it. In today’s Netflix age, there are a lot of cheaper and immediate alternatives to cable, and, for the many shows I love, I’ve grown used to purchasing them episodically on places like iTunes. It’s much cheaper to curate your TV watching this way. The one thing I really missed, however, was HBO GO, HBO’s streaming app available exclusively to cable subscribers. I knew the day would come, and, finally, this week HBO unveiled HBO NOW, its standalone subscription service for the non-cable subscribers out there.

There is a caveat to this announcement, and I’ll get to that in a second. But first, let’s look at the current streaming landscape. The reason I missed HBO GO more than any other aspect of my former cable subscription was because, at the time, it was the Cadillac of streaming services. Every episode of nearly every HBO series new and old, from Game of Thrones to The Sopranos, True Detective to Veep, were available to stream alongside world-class documentaries, new and classic movies, and HBO’s fine crop of self-produced films. In the past few years, Netflix has crept up on HBO in quality, offering original programming and exclusive film and documentary releases that have single-handedly changed the entire TV and film industries. Amazon Prime and Hulu, however, have yet to offer enough original, alluring content to attract the same kind of interest.

HBO NOW will include the same features as HBO GO for a mere $14.99 per month, the standard HBO subscription price for cable. But as I said, there is one caveat. Where I enjoyed the versatility of being able to download the HBO GO app on my Xbox One, smart TV, and mobile devices, HBO is releasing the first three months of HBO NOW exclusively on Apple devices.

From a marketing perspective this makes sense. HBO has long relied on big cable companies to market their network. By offering a standalone service, HBO is entering the Wild West, a new territory they’ve yet to conquer. Launching alongside an established tech company like Apple provides HBO with a buffer of support. Once that three-month exclusivity runs out, I’m hoping (and betting) that HBO NOW will be available on all devices. Those three months conveniently coincide with the new and hotly anticipated season of Game of Thrones. This will surely help sell a load of Apple TVs, but Apple TV is notorious for lag, so I for one will hold off until July.

As happy as this news makes me, the real news is the fact that HBO is about to change an entire industry. I’m looking forward to a very near future when we will be able to select the few networks we care about and subscribe to them singularly, for a low monthly fee. It boggles my mind that cable companies don’t allow for user-curated programming. If the Comcasts of the world allowed their customers to choose and pay for only the handful of channels they wanted rather than the hundreds of channels they don’t, the industry would buy itself some time. With HBO stepping out on its own, however, other channels are sure to follow, and cable might just be a thing of the past. It’s about time.

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