Cord-cutters who give up their cable subscription also give up access to HBO and its lineup of innovative original programming, live sports and movies. Fortunately, HBO works with live TV streaming services and created its own streaming service, called HBO Now, to let anyone watch HBO without cable.
Streaming TV services
Many cord-cutters have replaced their expensive cable plan with an affordable subscription to a streaming TV service. You can stream many of your favorite cable channels — even HBO — over your home internet connection.
|Sling Orange||Sling Blue||Sling Orange + Blue|
|Fire TV Support||Yes||Yes||Yes|
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Sling TV also has a big corporate parent, the satellite TV company Dish Network. While that relationship gives Sling TV a lot of channels, the streaming service built its reputation on low prices and customization.
The plans are a little complicated in that ESPN is only available on the Orange plan. Your local Fox and NBC stations are only available on the Blue plan. Most people will be better off getting the Orange+Blue combination to cover all the bases. The Extras and Minis are channel bundles that lets you tailor your Sling TV experience.
You’ll have to pay extra for Sling TV’s cloud DVR, but that’s balanced by the huge number of streaming platforms Sling TV supports:
- Living room devices: Air TV Player, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast and Roku.
- Smart TVs and Blu-ray players: Certain models from LeEco, LG, Samsung and ZTE.
- Mobile devices and tablets: Amazon Fire tablets, Android and iOS.
- Game consoles: Xbox One.
- Desktop browsers: Chrome.
|Live a Little||Just Right||Go Big||Gotta Have It|
|Fire TV Support||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Special Offers||FREE FIRE TV DEAL||FREE FIRE TV DEAL||FREE FIRE TV DEAL||FREE FIRE TV DEAL|
Being a subsidiary of AT&T, DirecTV Now offers the largest channel selection of all the streaming services.
Compare DirecTV Now’s most expensive plan to a typical cable bill. You’ll be paying a third to half as much to stream the same channels. You can also take advantage of special promotions that will get you a free Apple TV or other streaming box.
You will have to makes some tradeoffs for a little while. Until a planned upgrade arrives, there’s no way to record program on DirecTV Now or stream to more than two devices at the same time. That will change within the next few months as AT&T rolls out the next-gen DirecTV experience. You’ll also get access to 4K Ultra HD content.
DirecTV Now provides apps for a wide range of streaming devices:
- Living room devices: Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and Roku.
- Smart TVs and Blu-ray players: None.
- Mobile devices and tablets: Android and iOS.
- Game consoles: None.
- Desktop browsers: Chrome and Safari.
Hulu isn’t just on-demand TV anymore. Hulu with Live TV provides a complete alternative to cable TV. Your $40 subscription includes a cloud DVR that records up to fifty hours of content. Unlike other services, Hulu’s standard cloud DVR won’t let you record more than one program at the same time and won’t let you fast forward through commercials.
A $15 cloud DVR upgrade removes those limits and boosts the capacity to 200 hours.
Another $15 upgrade lets you stream to an unlimited number of devices at home and up to three devices at the same time while away from home. You can buy both of these upgrades as a package for $20 per month.
Hulu with Live TV supports a wide range of streaming platforms:
- Living room devices: Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku.
- Smart TVs and Blu-ray players: Certain TV models from Samsung
- Mobile devices and tablets: Amazon Fire Tablets, Android, and iOS
- Game consoles: Nintendo Switch, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
- Desktop browsers: Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Safari.
Sony’s PlayStation Vue isn’t limited to people with game consoles. Across a wide range of platforms, the streaming service delivers rich features and a large channel lineup.
- Access: 45 channels for $40 per month.
- Core: 60 channels for $45 per month.
- Elite: 84 channels for $55 per month.
- Ultra: 87 channels, including HBO and Showtime, for $75 per month.
PlayStation Vue’s cloud DVR will let you record an unlimited number of shows, but they automatically delete after four weeks.
Sony lets you stream to as many as five devices at a time which is more than any other streaming service. It’s also helpful since there are PlayStation Vue apps on such a wide range of streaming platforms.
- Living room devices: Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and Roku.
- Smart TVs and Blu-ray players: None.
- Mobile devices and tablets: Android, Amazon Fire Tablets and iOS.
- Game consoles: PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.
- Desktop browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Microsoft Edge.
HBO Now – Programming on Demand
HBO Now is an anywhere, anytime on-demand streaming service for subscribers in the United States and “certain U.S. territories”. The service does not offer a live streaming option. Instead, it posts movies and episodes of TV series to HBO Now the minute they premiere on HBO in the Eastern time zone.
This has important implications for people who want to avoid spoilers on social media. People living in the western time zones can watch the latest episodes on HBO Now before the programs air on cable.
Some of HBO’s content takes a little longer to appear on HBO Now. Unscripted programming like news, sports and reality TV may take as much as twenty-four hours to appear as on-demand options.
What’s On HBO Now?
The catalog gives you access to complete series of HBO Originals, documentaries, a rotating catalog of movies and more.
Over the past twenty years, HBO-produced TV series like The Sopranos have driven the network’s success both in the ratings and with critics. From the pretty-vampires-with-problems in True Blood to Lena Dunham’s Girls, you can watch every episode of the complete seasons.
Westworld fans can prepare for the spring premiere of season two by binge-watching the first season. Game of Thrones fans can watch the first seven seasons as many times as they want until season 8 premieres. (The latest rumor is 2019.)
HBO also broadcasts content produced by other companies. The licensing agreements with those companies, however, can make it hard to predict which of them will be available on-demand. Take as an example Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – only the most recent thirty episodes are available.
The sports reality show Hard Knocks is another casualty of licensing rules. Only the most recent series with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is available.
HBO Kids & Sesame Street
The kid-friendly TV shows and movies from the HBO Kids channel are available in the Kids section of HBO Now. This includes new episodes of Sesame Street which is now a shared production of HBO and Sesame Workshop.
Right now kids can watch Sesame Street episodes from the new 2017 series, the previous six seasons as well as classic episodes from the past four decades.
Parental control features can restrict kids’ access to the Kid section.
You can watch many hard-hitting documentaries produced by HBO like Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.
As with the fiction side of things, not every documentary that airs on HBO stays available on-demand. The recent bio-pic Spielberg, for example, premiered on HBO in early October but is scheduled to leave on-demand in November.
HBO Now maintains a constantly-changing catalog of on-demand movies. The titles range from recent releases like Hidden Figures to classics like Rush Hour 3.
Subscribing to HBO Now
HBO set a universal $14.99 price for its streaming service which you can pay directly by subscribing to the HBO Now website after the one-month free trial. There are other ways to get HBO Now, however, by subscribing through one of HBO’s streaming providers.
App stores on mobile devices and set-top boxes offer another avenue for subscribing. Just download the HBO Now app and use the in-app purchasing system to start the subscription. Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store both offer one-month free trials with the subscription.
If you already subscribe to the streaming video services Amazon Video, Hulu and PlayStation Vue, you can add HBO as a premium option. It also enrolls you in HBO Now and gives you full access to the on-demand features. All three services offer a 7-day free trial, but PlayStation Vue’s offering may be the best deal. For $15.00 per month (a penny more than everyone else) you get live streams of HBO’s east coast and west coast broadcasts as well as full access to HBO Now.
You can also check your internet service provider to see if it offers HBO Now as a premium subscription.
Devices for Watching HBO Now
HBO Now offers a solid range of support for devices in the home and on the go.
- Set-top Boxes and Streaming Sticks: Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Roku and Google Chromecast.
- Smart TVs: Android TV and Samsung Smart TV.
- Game Consoles: PlayStation3, PlayStation4, Xbox One and Xbox 360.
- Mobile and Tablet: Android, iOS and Amazon Fire Tablets.
Unlike other services, HBO Now has standardized its features across all devices. What you get on one device appears on any oother device.
HBO Now lets subscribers stream simultaneously to multiple devices, but caps the number of devices. The number is high enough to let typical households share a single account but not so high that people treat it like a friends-and-family giveaway.
Should I Get HBO Now?
HBO has made it as easy as possible for people to watch HBO without cable by offering its HBO Now on-demand service across devices and providers. At nearly $180 per year, however, that subscription takes a big bite out of your entertainment budget.
If your interest in HBO starts and stops with Game of Thrones, then you might as well save your money for the 4K Blu Ray Directors Final Edition box set. Wait until the ninth season starts and take advantage of the free trial.
The monthly subscription makes more sense if your family wants the wide range of on-demand programming from Sesame Street to documentaries to movies that HBO Now offers. Parental controls and support for multiple simultaneous streams makes the service a great option for households that want to watch HBO without cable.
Alternatively, if you already subscribe to one of the live TV streaming services we discussed above, then you should consider adding the HBO premium subscription. You’ll save about 30% off the HBO Now price and get access to the live and on-demand content HBO produces.