The Squawk Box

It’s official: fans of HBO’s exclusive content are no longer required to have a cable subscription to get access to the network’s desired catalogue of shows, movies and documentaries.

That’s because HBO on Tuesday announced that it’s official streaming service, HBO Now, has gone live. The service’s debut comes just days before the much-anticipated return of the fantasy epic Game of Thrones and half-hour comedy Veep, both of which return on Sunday.

But the service isn’t yet available to anyone with an Internet connection.

Only Apple TV owners and Cablevision’s Optimum Online subscribers can access HBO’s new streaming service. Cablevision is the only major cable operator and Internet service provider in the nation that struck a deal with HBO to stream HBO Now. HBO is owned by Time Warner.

Game of Thrones Season 5 Premiere Announced
Season 5 of HBO’s hit fantasy epic Game of Thrones will air Sunday, April 12. (Photo: HBO/Game of Thrones)

The network’s standalone streaming service is in response to a new wave of so-called cord cutters—a growing segment of content consumers who favor Internet-only services such as Netflix and Hulu over exorbitantly priced cable TV packages which typically include scores of channels that subscribers pay for but rarely watch, if ever.

Historically, HBO was offered solely at an additional monthly fee through cable operators.

HBO Now, like HBO Go (an Internet service available to HBO’s cable subscribers), offers complete seasons of shows and an impressive library of movies and documentaries that have previously aired on HBO. A monthly subscription is priced at $14.99. HBO is currently offering a 30-day free trial for HBO Now.

HBO Now Subscription
HBO Now is currently being offered to Apple TV owners and Optimum Online subscribers. (Credit: Screenshot/HBO Now)

Of course, the one drawback is HBO Now subscribers won’t have the opportunity to watch a show like Game of Thrones live, but the network promises live programming will be “added as quickly as possible, usually within hours of broadcast.”

Viewing habits have changed considerably thanks to a plethora of streaming services, “on demand” options and with the ability to record live programming on digital video recorders (DVRs) or devices like TiVo. The one outlier, however, is live sports, which fans prefer to watch as its happening and often draws the highest ratings.

Other networks are also getting into the streaming business. CBS has its own service called CBS All Access, which costs $5.99-per-month and Direct TV offers Sling, which starts at $20/month and includes popular channels like ESPN, AMC, TNT and Food Network.

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