The first bit of news to come from Apple’s smart watch press conference isn’t about a watch. It’s about Apple TV.
HBO has been hinting about a streaming only subscription option (as opposed to HBO GO, which requires a cable subscription) for HBO programs and movies. For cable TV cord cutters, such a plan would be a huge deal and give them access to programs like Game of Thrones and Girls as well as movies. Consumers looking to cut out cable bills frequently turn to video streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu to provide most of their TV and movie content—yet premium channels like HBO haven’t been well represented on those sources (at least for current programs). Smart TVs or streaming media players like Roku, Chromecast and Apple TV help bring those services into the home.
At the beginning of the Apple smart watch press conference today, HBO CEO Richard Plepler announced that the company is officially launching its streaming-only service, priced at $14.99 per month, and that HBO Now will be exclusive to Apple devices. That’s right, if you want to watch HBO Now on your home TV you have to buy (or already own) an Apple TV. Sorry Roku, Chromecast, Nexus, Amazon Fire TV.
If you had hoped to find the new service on a Sony, LG, Vizio or Samsung smart TV, then your hope were just dashed.
Why would HBO do something like that? Why would they severely limit the audience right out of the gate? Sure, Apple is a great brand to attach yourself to, but for people who really like streaming video, Apple TV isn’t always the best option.
Game of Thrones fans can subscribe to HBO Now and watch it on a computer through a web browser, but it’s not like having the service built into your TV or Roku player.
At least, to ease the burden on disappointed potential Now subscribers, Apple dropped the price of Apple TV from $99 to $69. The hardware itself isn’t changing, which means, no 4K Apple TV, at least today.