Cablevision and HBO Now agree to online partnership
Cablevision announced on March 16 that it has reached an agreement with HBO to become the first cable partner for the premium network’s new streaming service called HBO Now. All Optimum Online broadband subscribers in the United States will automatically gain access to HBO’s archive of television shows, movies, and comedy specials when the service launches in April.
Until a few years ago, HBO content was only available to cable customers who chose to pay a monthly fee to add the premium channel to their television package. A service called HBO Go was the first step in the network breaking away from traditional cable boxes. It allowed cable customers to log in through their provider’s website and stream HBO content on computer, laptops, and smartphones. However, anyone without an active cable subscription was locked out of the service.
The new partnership between HBO and Cablevision is significant as it represents the first time U.S. consumers will be able to access HBO shows and movies without having an active cable subscription. HBO Now will be rolled into Cablevision’s existing broadband-only plans, but it’s unknown whether those plans will see price hikes. Cablevision hopes to attract younger customers who already watch large amounts of content through Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video and prefer not to be locked into a long-term cable contract.
Cablevision offers cable television, broadband Internet, and phone services to homes and businesses, with the majority of its customer base located in the metropolitan New York area. Cablevision expects its Optimum Online customers to have access to HBO Now service in time for the April premiere of “Game of Thrones,” one of HBO’s most popular dramas.
HBO’s partnership with Cablevision is not expected to be an exclusive agreement. The network will negotiate with individual Internet service providers, such as Comcast and Time Warner, to add the streaming content to the companies’ broadband-only plans.
Earlier this month, HBO announced a separate partnership with Apple to make the HBO Now service available to owners of Apple devices. That deal is also expected to go into effect in April. Under the agreement, any American consumer with access to an Apple TV, iPhone, or iPad will be able to buy an HBO Now subscription for $14.99 per month. The agreement between Apple and HBO gives Apple exclusive rights to HBO Now for three months. The Cablevision partnership is not affected by that exclusivity, but other streaming platforms such as PlayStation, XBox, and Roku will not have an opportunity to offer HBO Now until the three months have passed.
HBO sees this new streaming service as a promising opportunity for growth. Until now, the only way for customers to watch the network’s programming was to purchase a monthly cable subscription and add the premium channel onto their package. But HBO Now breaks the forced link with cable packages, giving access to the millions of homes in the United States that currently subscribe to broadband-only plans.
When HBO first announced its intentions to build a standalone streaming service in late 2014, it was unclear whether HBO would actually be selling subscriptions directly to customers, similar to how Netflix offers its online streaming service. But the recent agreements with Cablevision and Apple make it clear that the network favors the partnership model, perhaps in an effort to maintain positive relationships with the cable companies that host the bulk of their viewership.
The HBO partnerships with Cablevision and Apple only apply to residents of the United States. However, it is believed that HBO hopes to roll out the HBO Now service internationally when possible.