Cost of HBO: Is now a good time to get the premium service on cable or satellite?

Cable, satellite, and other pay-TV providers are discounting HBO

Published: March 20, 2015 11:00 AM
Like other cable companies, Time Warner Cable has deals on HBO and other premium channels.

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Judging by a quick survey of cable, satellite, and telephone-company pay-TV services, HBO's upcoming launch of the HBO Now streaming-only service on Apple TV is already having an impact: Many of those service providers are cutting the cost of HBO as part of a TV package.

Visits to several of the larger cable company websites show that many have cut the price for adding HBO from $16 to $20 to $10 a month, which we're assuming is in anticipation of the launch of HBO Now. That lets you get the streaming service without a pay-TV package.

DirecTV and Dish, as well as AT&T, seem to be holding the line on HBO pricing, at least for now. DirecTV is running a special promotion offering new HBO subscribers a $50 Visa gift card, provided they sign up by April 15 and keep HBO for at least three months. That might take some of the sting out of the $18-per-month fee DirecTV normally charges for HBO.

Where are the deals?

  • With Comcast, you can add HBO to your current Xfinity Triple Play or TV service for $10 a month when you order online.
  • Cox has a similar offer through April 27, but the price appears to be good for only six months; after that, it jumps to $16 a month.
  • Charter is also charging $15 per month; HBO is included in some of its premium programming packages.
  • Time Warner Cable offers HBO's 20 channels for $10 per month, down from $16 a month, and it doesn't seem limited to a promotional period.
  • Verizon has a one-year deal on HBO for $10 a month, half off its regular price.

Not all cable companies are joining the fray. Cablevision, for example, is still charging $15 a month, but it's the first pay-TV service provider to say that it will carry the upcoming HBO Now service, so perhaps there's less reason to cut regular pricing.

Just note that many of the deals we're seeing require you to sign up for HBO online, and it's entirely possible—especially with cable—that deals will vary based on where you live.  

Combined with the recent announcements about new streaming alternatives—Sling TV, Sony PlayStation Vue, and an Apple service expected to launch this fall—the real takeaway is that this is a great time to negotiate with your pay TV service provider to see whether you can strike a better deal on your programming package.

—James K. Willcox

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