Everything You Need To Know About HBO Now’s Deal With Apple

Apple’s big press conference is supposedly about a watch. But instead, the big reveal you actually care about dropped early: Apple is going to be the only way you can get HBO streaming without cable. Here’s what you need to know.

I already have HBO Go!

This is different. HBO Now is an independent streaming service, no cable subscription required. The catch is that if you want to use it, you’ll have to go through Apple.

Like, through my iPhone?

Actually, yes. But Apple is heavily hyping the Apple TV as a companion piece.

I don’t own an Apple TV.

You’re not alone in that one! So Apple is cutting the price to just $69! Or you could wait for when HBO rolls it out, as this is a timed exclusive, something Apple hid deeply in the fine print.

How much does HBO Now cost?

$15, although when it debuts in April, the first month will be free, so that you can watch the Game of Thrones season premiere.

Wait… isn’t that way more expensive than Netflix? Or stealing HBO Go from somebody who already has a subscription?

Why… yes. Yes it is. That can be for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that HBO does not want to seem to its cable partners like it’s going to ditch cable systems to stream to all of us. Which it’s totally going to do, but fictions need to be maintained.

This has to have cost Apple a fortune. Why’d they do it?

The short answer is that Apple expected everything to fall into place for streaming video, and it would naturally take over your television viewing. Instead, it’s found itself fighting with Google and Roku for control of the market. So they need to bring out the big guns, and HBO definitely qualifies.

Will it work?

Apple has spent nearly a decade in the wilderness with the Apple TV trying to make it happen. For context, Roku, one of the other major players in the market, debuted a year later and is still competitive; essentially, they survived Apple at its height when Steve Jobs was still destroying competitors left and right.

Nothing has helped, not Netflix, not iTunes, nothing. The fact that Apple couldn’t get more than an early exclusive from HBO, despite its massive pile of cash, says it all. This deal is great for people who own an Apple TV, but to be honest, if Netflix couldn’t sell these things, Game of Thrones isn’t going to do so, either.