HBO GO | NOW | Later

Dave Zatz —  March 10, 2015

hbo-now

While the Apple Watch was announced for a second time this week, one of the more fascinating aspects of the 90 minute press event was Apple TV-centric. And the three-year old streaming hardware sees an immediate price drop from $99 to $69, undercutting both the Roku 3 and Amazon Fire TV. Despite the discount, I’d still recommend the Roku 3 to most given a much larger app catalog and their unbeatable universal search. Yet, the dynamics may shift … for a bit, anyway.

Beyond the highly compelling Airplay and iTunes integration, for those deep into Apple, HBO NOW will be an exclusive Apple TV offering when it launches in April for $15/month. Unlike HBO GO, the streaming service bundled with many cable and satellite providers, HBO NOW will be available to anyone with an Apple product and an Internet connection. I’d strongly suspected the foreshadowed service would launch exclusively with ISPs to largely preserve the status quo. But HBO is moving forward with a clearly agnostic, tho still strategic, approach… that may yet involve our Internet providers:

HBO continues to be in discussions with its existing network of distributors and new digital partners to offer HBO NOW.  At launch, HBO NOW will be available on iOS devices and on PCs.

Indeed, TiVo’s CEO even indicates they’re in talks with HBO (which is a far cry from HBO’s rep nearly laughing me out of their Cable Show booth in 2013, feigning surprise TiVo was still in business).

In terms of content, HBO NOW seems quite similar to HBO GO… and it’s the new release movies that may help justify the price premium over Netflix fees.

HBO NOW provides instant access to HBO’s acclaimed programming.  Watch every episode of every season of the best series programming, more of the biggest and latest Hollywood hit movies, original HBO Films, groundbreaking documentaries, sports, and comedy and music specials.

At the end of the day, HBO LATER via Amazon Prime remains the best value at $99/year… but obviously isn’t suitable for folks needing a relatively real-time fix, of say, Game of Thrones. Regardless of how or where one receives HBO content, things have surely changed for them and Apple since their days of actively blocking access.

17 responses to HBO GO | NOW | Later

  1. I can’t quite cut the cord. If Sling TV or Hulu had a larger catalog of on demand titles, I could probably make it work. But, as is, the costs of binging entire seasons that I’d have to purchase via Amazon … well the math just doesn’t work. If done right, via bundling and perhaps streamlining one’s channel lineup, cable remains an excellent value. At least for my household. And Verizon will let me add all the HBO channels, along with GO, for $10 month. Works for me.

    I think we can also bet that over the next few months HBO GO will start limiting accessing in terms of number of simultanious streams and/or more frequent authentication… as the last couple years of sharing served to market HBO NOW. They’re gonna want a return on that investment. Also, I wonder if their $15 price point gives Netflix more maneuverability in terms of increasing their fees again (and catalog).

  2. still easier to find a friend who subscribes to HBO & have them add your Roku/FireWhatever/AppleTV to their approved devices.

  3. Again, I assume they will lock down the amount of simultanious HBO GO streams or number of authorized devices which may negatively impact your ability to share…

  4. I agree that cordcutting isn’t quite there yet; even with slingtv + Hulu + netflix + amazon + HBO NOW you either don’t get everything day and date with cable or have to purchase shows on Amazon/iTunes which, as you pointed out, probably ends up costing more in the end. Also Hulu has commercials which is an _inferior_ alternative to a cable DVR.

    Right now, the only way for a cordcutter to have an equivalent experience is to pirate TV shows, which is very common and super easy these days and the real reason why there needs to be an attractively priced legitimate alternative to cable TV in the first place.

  5. “Yet, the dynamics may shift … for a bit, anyway.”

    I read somewhere yesterday that the Apple exclusive was for exactly 3 months. But I don’t remember where I read it.

    And, contrary to the many explanations I read about the exclusive, where the explanation was that Time-Warner didn’t want to piss off the MSO’s, I think it’s rather obvious that the actual explanation is that Apple shoveled them a boatload of cash for the promotional privilege.

    —–

    “Indeed, TiVo’s CEO even indicates they’re in talks with HBO (which is a far cry from HBO’s rep nearly laughing me out of their Cable Show booth in 2013, feigning surprise TiVo was still in business).”

    Well, I always thought the reason Time-Warner wouldn’t offer HBO Go on TiVo was entirely about the MSO’s not being willing to allow it. And with HBO Now, the MSO’s are out of the equation.

    However, the far more interesting question here is whether or not HBO Now for TiVo will motivate the MSO’s to allow HBO Go for TiVo. There is a quite a bit of logic behind the concept that this would force the MSO’s hand to allow it, for reasons that I assume are obvious…

  6. Scott G. Lewis March 10, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    Dave, I can’t cut the cord because I have kids. To me, that’s the number one achilles heel of Sling TV. It’s $20 for one stream, maybe $30 if you add in a couple of the $5 channel packs. Between me, my wife and our two kids… one stream is laughable. We could live with two. Three would be ideal.

    What would have worked, would be ‘unlimited streams’ from your home network and one remote stream. Or set a limit… 4 streams in your house. Whatever it is that isn’t 1.

    Unless they thought me and my five year old like the same exact shows. I just lie to her and make her think that. Secretly, I prefer football to “Lab Rats”. :)

    I don’t factor in the cost of Netflix or Amazon Prime to the cost of cutting a cord… because we subscribe now. But our Comcast bill this month (it seems to change monthy) is $120, about half of which is Internet, so $60.

    I’d gladly pay up to $40 or so for SlingTV if it had a few more channels and/or solved the stream issue.

    But $20 for a single stream just kills it. Families must not be their target audience.

  7. Yeah, even with just my wife and I, Sling TV wouldn’t work. DISH/Sling did clearly communicate this is a service targeting millennials and Ergen implied they have to operate in a relatively conservative manner so as to not ruffle any feathers that could impact content providers in regards to their satellite service. I assume they learned that thru the various Hopper litigation, retransmission battles, etc.

  8. “Dave, I can’t cut the cord because I have kids.”

    and

    “Yeah, even with just my wife and I, Sling TV wouldn’t work.”

    What? Neither of you are broke millennials?

    Seriously, though, and assuming one isn’t a broke millennial. With a decent DVR, a cable sub is excellent value. The only way going no-cable sub makes real sense is if you don’t want any sports, and you are willing to pirate extensively. Short of that, especially if you live in a region with multiple MSO’s and are willing to bargain, the multicast is pretty great value…

  9. The one thing I can’t figure is why Apple isn’t adding built in gameplay the way Amazon has with their box. Easy cash and it has swayed our usage of the Fire TV box with 2 kids.
    My Apple TV is currently unplugged. Never thought that’d happen.

  10. Games are resource hungry, if Apple goes the game route they will be looking at Microsoft and Sony as targets, they will be building a console with Apple TV capability.
    Not an under powered internet streaming ( all free standing streaming boxes are under powered vs. PS-4’s and X-Box one’s and off course PC’s) box only suitable for casual gaming.

  11. @MJR: The nvidia shield console is actually substantially faster than the Xbox 360. It doesn’t compete with the current generation of consoles, of course, but it’s not a casual gaming only device like the Amazon FireTV.

    Unfortunately it’s priced at $199 and it has a tiny library of android apps that takes advantage of its GPU power so it’s essentially DOA.

    If Apple were to release an updated AppleTV at $99 with a GPU similar to a PowerVR GT 7900 (and add an appstore!) they might actually gain some traction. I don’t see any of the various android OEMs competing with MS or Sony.

  12. Maybe related, sounds like the PS Vita TV could be dead. I imagine Apple’s got more in mind for Apple TV. Voice control, via app or a new, real remote? A gaming controller? A beefier unit? A better UI? Of course, I’ve been imagining these for years…

  13. “I imagine Apple’s got more in mind for Apple TV. Voice control, via app or a new, real remote? A gaming controller? A beefier unit? A better UI? Of course, I’ve been imagining these for years…”

    Before any of that, they start with the solid gold model…

  14. With leather-wrapped remoted!

  15. “With leather-wrapped remoted!”

    You’re getting close, but you’re still not thinking like Cupertino. The remote will be solid gold, wrapped in leather, and then wrapped in more solid gold. Diamonds for buttons goes without saying…

    (Unfortunately, it will be the same shape with the same functionality.)

  16. joseph writes:

    “@KarlBode you can’t buy it alone. it’s $15 through apple. It’s gone unsaid, but HBO isn’t selling it stand alone…”

    Dave replies:

    “@KarlBode @mixdup HBO is going to let the cable company, err ISP, take a cut. The status quo must be maintained. Somewhat, anyway.”

    I don’t think that’s quite it.

    From what I read, Apple has a 3 month exclusive on sales, except that MSO’s can also sell during that 3 month “exclusive”.

    However, I don’t think anyone is getting a cut. I strongly assume, though I have no evidence other than Sherlock Holmes deduction to go from, that Apple is the one paying for that 3 month exclusive, not the other way around. The decision to allow MSO’s to also sell during those 3 months is merely a meaningless offer Time-Warner is giving the MSO’s to face-savingly preserve the billing status quo. After all, after the window is up, you’ll be able to buy it direct from HBO.

    But web browsers aside, no matter who sells it during the 3 month window, the real exclusive Apple is paying for is that the only STB to receive it is the Apple TV…

  17. Wow. New Apple TV service is going to allow ads. (Non-skippable, of course.)