We can finally watch HBO online without cable. In fact, there are now multiple options to watch HBO online in the US. HBO produces some of the best original TV series and also has new movies every month. Everything is already available online through HBO Go, but only for cable TV subscribers. That's changing this week with the introduction of HBO Now. HBO content is also available without cable a few other ways, and I'll go through all of the options.
Watch HBO online with HBO Now
HBO Now is essentially a standalone version of HBO Go that can be used to watch HBO online without cable TV. It includes access to the entire back catalog of HBO programming and new movies from Warner Brothers, Universal, Fox, and Summit every month. HBO Now gets new movie releases from these studios a few months after they become available for rent, and also has a large catalog of older movies.
HBO Now is available for $15 per month with a free 30-day trial. It will be available on Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad exclusively for 3 months, and is also available through a computer web browser. There is no limit on the number of simultaneous streams, but the FAQ warns against abusing this. This essentially means that the only way to watch HBO online on a TV is with the Apple TV, which was recently reduced to $70. (Although you could plug a computer into your TV as well.)
HBO is not selling Now subscriptions directly, instead electing to use partners to handle signups and billing. Apple users can sign up through Apple TV or the mobile app and pay through an iTunes account. Optimum is also offering the service to their broadband customers. More partners will be added, and support for non-Apple devices will likely come soon after the exclusivity period ends.
Watch HBO online with Sling TV
Sling TV is a live streaming TV service. The base package is $20 per month for about 20 channels, including ESPN, TNT, AMC, and Disney. HBO can be added for an additional $15. The main HBO channel will be streamed 'live'. Access to on-demand content is through the Sling interface instead of HBO Go. Sign up for a free Sling TV trial today, and get a free Roku Stick or Fire TV Stick when you prepay for 3 months of service.
Other ways to watch HBO online without cable
There are a few other ways to watch HBO online, though they aren't as comprehensive as the options above. Amazon Prime includes older HBO content, generally seasons that are at least 3 years old from series that are no longer airing. For example, The Sopranos and The Wire are available in their entirety, with season 1 of Boardwalk Empire and seasons 1-3 of True Blood available. They are also missing some popular older shows, such as Sex and the City and Entourage.
HBO shows are also available to purchase on iTunes, Amazon, and other online video stores. HBO doesn't release a season for sale until after it has concluded - anywhere from a few to 9 months. Episodes typically cost $3-$4 in HD.
How much is it worth to watch HBO online?
I think $15 per month is a fair price. HBO has some of the best shows on television, a great back catalog, new hit movies every month, plus specials and documentaries. If you want to stay current on HBO series and don't have cable, paying $15 per month is really the only option. However, if you're only interested in a few series you can save money by waiting for them to come to iTunes or Amazon. You'll have to avoid spoilers, but whatever you purchase is yours to keep.