Owners of an Apple TV (NASDAQ: AAPL) streaming device, or an iPhone or iPad, are getting the first look at HBO's new standalone over the top service, HBO Now. The service is now live and accepting subscriptions on those devices.
New registrants get a 30-day free trial, and the registration ties in with their iTunes account. After the trial period, the monthly subscription rate is $14.99.
HBO Now's iPad interface. (Screenshot)
Apple last month announced that HBO Now would be available exclusively on its devices for the first three months of the streaming service's operation.
While it remains to be seen how strongly consumers respond to the a la carte premium service, service providers across the media ecosystem--from MVPDs to content owners, distributors and cable networks--are watching HBO's OTT launch closely.
Analysts earlier this year were speculating that HBO Now, along with other subscription-based online video services, may precipitate a much more rapid exodus by pay-TV subscribers, particularly in the coming months. Pay-TV providers and broadcasters' sped-up shift toward more robust TV Everywhere offerings likely will stem that tide, other analysts predict.
HBO Now's streaming quality hasn't been reported yet. For this reporter, signup via iTunes and an iOS device was initially glitchy. However, the real test of the service's reliability and quality comes on Sunday with the premier of Game of Thrones.
One user concern is whether HBO Now will be more restrictive in its access to the service than it is with HBO Go. That TV Everywhere service's fairly open device-streaming limits led to rampant password-sharing. For its part, HBO Now said on its website's FAQ that the viewing setup, in terms of the number of videos that can be watched at one time, is similar to that of HBO Go, allowing simultaneous streaming on three devices.
"Like the traditional broadcast HBO subscription, we view it as a household subscription," the FAQ said. "However, if we see a level of sharing that affects our business, there are other tools of enforcement available to us."
On a related note, Sling TV subscribers will be able to add HBO to their linear OTT package for an additional $15 per month starting this week, "before Saturday, April 11," the company said in an e-mail to media. The provider initially planned to launch HBO on its service Wednesday, April 8, but decided to delay for a few days to prep its servers for expected heavy viewership this weekend, and add a few more features to its app, including parental controls.
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Updated April 8 to include Sling TV information.