HBO NOW, the standalone service from HBO, launched in the spring of 2015. Not that people were really surprised, since there had been rumors about it for some time. In fact, working on articles from others, I personally predicted it over a year before launch. I also predicted that it would lead to other paid a la carte services, which has been borne out by Starz and Showtime launching their streaming-only services and CBS strengthening theirs with original content.
I actually thought by now it would go further, but the rise of streaming-only live TV services like DIRECTV NOW has meant that you can authenticate to a lot of provider apps for less money. Pay $35 a month for DIRECTV now and you get access to pretty much every app associated with any channel you get in your package. There are something like 40 different apps you can launch alongside your DIRECTV NOW subscription. It means no one is going to pay for a standalone subscription to Bravo or BBC America (for example.)
HBO, with its stable of popular programs, has proven to be a great example of a streaming service that can do it right. Cord-cutters can pay $15 a month for two months if all they care about is Game of Thrones then cancel easily without talking to a pushy CSR. Of course, for those two months you also have access to all of HBO’s other on-demand content so you really are getting a pretty good value. iTunes charges $4 per episode, so even in a shortened season like the recent one you’re still paying $28 for the season and for just $2 more you get all the other on demand programming.
Of course, you can also add HBO to many of the popular streaming services including DIRECTV NOW, Hulu, Amazon and others. It’s about the same price as the standalone app, so that’s just one more level of choice.