For years, the only way to get HBO programming was to pay ridiculous amounts of money every month for not only access to HBO, but also access to the sufficiently high cable programming tier that would even allow users to pay for HBO to begin with. At any rate, HBO has since been opening up its service a bit, and in turn offering access to its shows via other means, and that's led to the launch of HBO Now, a stand-alone premium subscription tier that will offer access to all those big HBO shows.
HBO Now has launched in the iOS App Store, as well as for Apple TV and Optimum (News - Alert) Online, meaning users with those particular platforms on hand can pay a $15 monthly subscription fee to access the variety of shows contained therein. Those who sign up this month using an Apple (News - Alert) device will get a free month's trial, and those who are hoping that the tool will make its way to other devices won't have long to wait; Apple's window of exclusivity reportedly closes in three months. Indeed, the wait may not even be that long; Dish will reportedly be offering HBO—though not specifically HBO Now—through Sling TV for an additional $15 subscription fee on top of the $20 monthly minimum service package.
However, this move hasn't come without some very key concerns. HBO is anticipating some impressive numbers to emerge—between 10 to 15 million cord cutters who may have been getting access from borrowed passwords or via piracy—to take on the service, but it may well be that HBO's not ready for prime time. After all, the premiere of Game of Thrones' new season is set for Sunday, and given what happened to Sling TV when the Final Four tournament got going, something similar may well happen to HBO.
One point that may have prompted HBO's acceleration to a digital service—aside, of course, from the huge numbers of cable cutters it may win back—is the rise of Netflix in recent years. HBO is destroying Netflix in terms of sheer earnings; HBO pulled in $1.8 billion in 2014 against Netflix's still-impressive $403 million. But Netflix is actually on the rise. Even just two years ago, Netflix's average consumption was around an hour a day. Now it's up to two hours a day, according to Redef's Liam Boluk.
But beyond that, the sheer growth of options in the over-the-top (OTT) streaming field of late must give HBO pause. It's never been so possible to enjoy all the latest content from so many different sources. Naturally, Dish's Sling TV is shaking things up, allowing the closest thing to an a-la-carte option we've seen yet, but it's hardly alone. PlayStation Vue's offering is also in there, and add on the array of options already well-known from Hulu to Netflix to Amazon and even YouTube (News - Alert). Even Crackle recently scored something of a coup, being the first online streaming option to offer the first “Dead Rising” movie, Dead Rising: Watchtower. Add all these together and it looks like potentially bad days ahead for the standard cable package.