HBO announces HBO Now standalone streaming service with discounted Apple TV


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HBO formally unveiled its HBO Now standalone streaming service on Monday, which will be bundled with a newly discounted Apple TV streaming box.

HBO Now will cost $15 per month, and the first month will be free who those who sign up. The service will launch in early April, in time for the debut of the new season of Game of Thrones that will debut in the middle of the month. HBO representatives said that Apple will be the only non-paid television provider to offer HBO Now at launch for a period of three months.

“This is a transformative moment for HBO, and we are very excited to launch HBO for you today,” said Richard Plepler, the chairman and chief executive of HBO, at what was expected to be the launch of the Apple Watch at an event in San Francisco on Monday.

screen shot 2015 03 09 at 1.08.46 pm

What HBO Now will look like on Apple devices.

The service will ship with the Apple TV, which Apple has traditionally referred to as a “hobby”. 

Apple will receive “exclusive” access to HBO Now—of a sort. For three months, Apple TV will be the only non-pay TV provider to offer the service, an HBO representative said in an email. And HBO Now will be exclusive to Apple devices—Apple TV, the iPad, and the iPhone—at launch. 

However, that doesn’t mean that Windows users are out of luck. HBO is “in conversations with all PayTV providers, so [there] could be some offering HBO Now at launch,” the spokesman added. That seems to imply that a company like Cox, for example, could offer standalone cable Internet service, but with HBO Now as an add-on—a slightly cheaper option than the small number of basic cable-plus-HBO packages offered today. 

But to watch, you’ll need to use the Web. There will also be a browser-based HBO Now service available via HBONow.com, providing another way of gaining access, HBO said. But it appears that you can forget about watching HBO Now through a device like a Roku for a while.

A cheaper Apple TV

When Apple TV debuted, the price was competitive with other products from Roku and others. Since then, however, devices like the Google Chromecast have dramatically lowered the price. In response, Apple lowered the price of the Apple TV from $99 to $69, Apple chief executive Tim Cook said. That’s still far from the price of the $35 Google Chromecast, but more consistent with the $70 that Roku charges for the last-generation Roku 2.

The announcement of the HBO NOW was the first of many Apple launches on Monday, in what is expected to culminate with the formal launch of the Apple Watch. Macworld is hosting a live blog of the announcements; follow along as the event unfolds.

Why this matters: The world has been waiting for a standalone HBO service for years, especially as cord cutters look to free themselves from pay-TV services such as Comcast, Dish Network, and DirecTV. 

This story has been updated at 12:53 with additional details from HBO.

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