Game of Thrones. True Detective. The Jinx. All potentially yours (and legally) for $15 a month, now that HBO Now, the network’s stand-alone premium subscription tier, has officially launched in the App Store for iOS and Apple TV users, as well as Optimum Online customers.
Last month, Apple was officially announced as the first carrier for the stand-alone subscription service that is seen as HBO’s answer to Netflix, while Optimum Online subscribers can sign up here. HBO anticipates adding another 10 million to 15 million cord cutters, many of whom may have already been borrowing someone else’s HBO Go password or torrenting its shows illegally.
A few key questions remain. With millions of additional subscribers, will HBO Now be able to hold up under pressure, namely with Game of Thrones set to premiere on Sunday? Dish’s Sling TV streaming service buckled during this month’s Final Four tournament, prompting users to cry foul.
When you sign up for HBO Now, users are given a free month’s subscription with the option to auto-renew once that period is up. On iOS, the interface is sleek and fast–I didn’t encounter any noticeable hitches when firing up a season four episode of Game of Thrones on my iPhone.
For HBO the move has been a long time coming. Although it is far more profitable than Netflix, earning $1.8 billion versus the latter’s $403 million in 2014, the prestige network has been inching towards a pure digital offering for quite some time. “Two to three years ago, the average user was watching almost 60 minutes of Netflix a day. Today, it’s nearly two hours,” Liam Boluk, a media strategy consultant at Redef, told Fast Company. “Netflix is bigger than every single cable and premium-cable network in the U.S. No matter how well programmed, powerful, or profitable HBO is today, you can’t look at that scale and might and not feel the need to act soon.”