Would you pay $15 per month for HBO's streaming-only service?

Reportedly called 'HBO Now,' the service could launch in April with the new season of "Game of Thrones"

Published: March 05, 2015 10:45 AM

If published reports are true, you'll soon be able to get HBO without a cable subscription when the premium channel launches its much-anticipated streaming service next month. Called HBO Now, the service will reportedly cost $15 a month.

According to a report in the International Business Times, which broke the story, HBO is working to make the service available in time for the launch of the fifth season of the popular series, "Game of Thrones." IBT says that Apple, which is rumored to be working on its own TV service, has been aggressively lobbying HBO to make Apple TV one of the launch partners. We can't confirm that HBO will be available on other devices, but Roku has scheduled a press event for next week. We've reached out to the company, but so far haven't heard back. If the $15 price is accurate, it will be within a few dollars of the $13 to $18 that viewers typically pay to add HBO to a cable or satellite subscription.

While there's been a growing number of streaming options, including most recently the Sling TV service from Dish, the launch of a streaming-only option by HBO is viewed as having the most potential impact on the growing trend of cord cutting, with more people severing their ties to traditional cable-TV packages. But some cable companies have expressed an interest in offering HBO Now as a possible add-on to their broadband service. So the trend might be more cord swapping than cord cutting.

HBO's parent, Time Warner, has said that while it expects cord cutting to gain traction as more à la carte options become available, an HBO streaming service is really targeted toward the 10 million or so broadband-only customers who don't pay for TV service. But it also gives the company an opportunity to reach the 70 million pay-TV customers who so far have been unable or unwilling to pay to add HBO to their TV package.

While a broadband-only HBO service is certainly appealing to those who don't already pay for a TV service, it will be interesting to see how cable, satellite, and telco TV service providers react to HBO Now. It's quite possible that over the next several months we'll see these companies experiment with new types of packages that include HBO Now, or offer promotional prices on HBO Now to current and prospective subscribers to keep them tied to a paid-TV service.

—James K. Willcox

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