With more people ditching traditional cable TV for streaming services, companies have had to create new platforms of viewing content. HBO, which stands for Home Box Office, started in November of 1972 and has managed to not only stay all these years afloat but also remain relevant even with modern viewers. HBO Now is one way they are doing that.
What is HBO Now?
In 2015, HBO launched HBO Now, which is not just a streaming add-on to their cable version, but a standalone app to stream their content. That means you don’t even have to have cable to view the excellent shows for which HBO is known.
Currently, you can watch content the same day it is released on the traditional cable version through HBO Now, so there is no delay in keeping up with popular shows. For now, HBO Now is partnered with Apple Inc. and Apple TV, and through the Apple store, you can get a free trial of HBO Now for one month, along with occasional incentives and promotions.
Pricing and Competition
Naturally, price is one of the factors in selecting a streaming service, and this is where HBO comes up against some competition.
HBO starts at $14.99 a month and is known for its top-quality programming, not just now, but for a long time. The programming on HBO, especially Sunday night shows as they’ve become known for, are legendary in television history.
Some of HBO’s famous programming include current content like Euphoria, Barry, and West World. Past shows include Game of Thrones, True Blood, Entourage, Girls, Deadwood, True Detective, Big Love, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, and Sex and the City. If you go way back, it was HBO that aired Tales from the Crypt.
That’s a pretty tough lineup to beat if you’re into shows that take on an almost movie/saga quality. If you’re a die-hard fan of that type of content, some of the competition will likely fall short when it comes to production and content value, even if you do save a few bucks.
A significant rival in streaming is, of course, Netflix. Netflix has three plans: the basic for $8.99 a month, their plan standard for 12.99 a month, and premium for $15.99 a month.
Most people don’t necessarily need the Netflix premium plan, as the only added benefits are being able to view on four different screens and the option for “ultra HD.” If you don’t care about HD and only need one screen, the basic plan will work for you.
With the standard plan, you can view two screens and get standard HD viewing. So, Netflix will cost between $8.99 and $12.99 a month for most subscribers. Netflix releases entire shows at once, meaning you can binge-watch a whole season instead of waiting each week for a new episode as you must with HBO.
Hulu starts even cheaper at $5.99 a month, offers premium at $11.99 a month, but you can go all the way up to $60.99 a month with their premium plus live TV version. Hulu may lack some of the variety that other options present, but they are excellent for streaming mixed with live television.
Amazon Prime Video starts at $8.99 a month for a standalone membership, or you can access many of their shows with your Prime membership. A considerable number of people already have a Prime membership ($12.99 a month or $119 a year), so Amazon is often an excellent add-on streaming service for viewers.
They do have some high-quality signature content, but some may agree that HBO’s high-caliber shows probably still top a lot of Amazon’s content, at least for now. However, Amazon releases content all at once, like Netflix, and is no small company. The quality of their content will likely continue to get better and better.
The HBO Service Options
Within HBO, there are multiple options, and the names might confuse some who don’t carefully follow streaming platforms. So, you may want to consider the varying levels of HBO’s service when deciding whether HBO Now is for you.
The oldest of the subsets of HBO is that of HBO Go, which is a streaming option for those who still pay for the original cable version of HBO. If you pay for HBO to watch on TV the old fashioned way, you can also stream shows on your tablet or phone when you’re not at home. HBO varies in price between $5 and $20 a month depending on your provider and if you’re lucky enough to snag a deal when you sign up.
HBO Now is an identical platform as HBO Go, but as mentioned, this is for those who don’t want to pay for cable or don’t need other cable channels. You still get the streaming platform, but don’t have the traditional cable version. HBO Now costs $14.99 a month as of this writing.
So, if there is a cable version, a cable a streaming version, and an only-streaming version, what is HBO Max? HBO Max is Time-Warner and seems to be an attempt to compete with platforms such as Disney+ and other competitors with more kid-friendly content as well as sitcoms (Friends may be one of them in the future).
Many people have negative connotations with older cable companies, one of which was Time-Warner. This platform appears to be a rebranding attempt to create yet another streaming service under the HBO that will not be as limited to the often serious, adult-demographic shows for which HBO is known. With the planned 2020 launch of HBO Max, the cost will be $15 a month.
Some of HBO’s Current Shows
As of 2020, HBO is currently airing just some of the following that you can stream through HBO Now (this is only a portion of their current lineup, and several shows are in development):
- My Brilliant Friend
- Gentleman Jack
- His Dark Materials
- Curb Your Enthusiasm
- Los Espookys
- The Righteous Gemstones
- Random Acts of Flyness
- A Black Lady Sketch Show
- True Detective
- Room 104
- Sesame Street
- Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel
- Real Time with Bill Maher
- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
The programming on HBO Now is undoubtedly one of the most significant selling points. Some streaming platforms may offer more content, but much of it lacks the quality that HBO is known for, and many HBO shows stay on the air for years and sometimes decades.
So, is HBO Now worth the price? Like most things, that will depend on the individual and what they value. What you like to watch, how you want to watch it, and if you wish to do away with cable or not will affect your decision.
Our takeaway is this: if you want to save every last penny you possibly can, prefer to binge shows all at once, and prefer a mix of decent productions along with more “fluff” shows that you can watch and forget about, then no, it’s probably not worth it.
When HBO Now is Worth the Price
Iif spending a few extra dollars to watch iconic, top-quality shows is a choice that is worth it in your opinion, then HBO Now might be perfect for you. With current HBO shows, you’ll have to wait each week for a new episode, but sometimes the wait is part of the fun.
The upside is that you’re less likely to hear spoilers if a co-worker binges a new show all at once in the first night before you get a chance to watch it. If you followed Game of Thrones, we all had to experience that ending at the same time. Tiger King jokes (Netflix) might be tossed around for weeks before you get around to watching it.
In the end, the cost difference is not extreme between platforms. The show quality versus binge capability is, though. That’s where you’ll need to make the real decision in your viewing preferences.