HBO standalone service coming to Apple devices in April

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 09, 2015 1:29 PM

By Lisa Richwine

(Reuters) - HBO's standalone streaming service will launch on Apple Inc devices next month in time for the season premiere of hit series "Game of Thrones," the network said on Monday, a move to reach millions of viewers who do not subscribe to pay television packages.

The new HBO Now service will cost $14.99 a month. It will include all of the network's past, present and future series plus its lineup of Hollywood movies, HBO Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Plepler said at an Apple event in San Francisco.

It is the first time the premium network will be available to people with Internet access who shun traditional TV bundles with dozens of channels. Other media companies including CBS Corp and Dish Network Corp also are taking steps to reach those audiences.

"This is a transformative moment for HBO," Plepler said after an introduction by Apple CEO Tim Cook.

The move by HBO could threaten the video businesses of cable and satellite television providers, which are fighting to keep customers from dropping their TV packages. It also amps up competition with streaming video services like Netflix Inc. HBO's library of hits includes acclaimed series such as "The Sopranos" and "Sex and the City."

Starting in early April, HBO Now will be available through a new channel on the Apple TV box and on iPhones, iPads and the iPod touch. The fifth season of "Game of Thrones" premieres on April 12.

Apple will serve as the exclusive digital provider of HBO Now for three months. The network is in talks with pay TV distributors who might also offer the service as early as April, an HBO spokesman said.

The network had announced plans for a standalone - or over-the-top - streaming service last October. At the time, Plepler said 10 million U.S. homes were broadband-only, without cable subscriptions.

HBO Now is separate from HBO Go, a streaming service for customers who subscribe to HBO through pay TV packages.

Apple also said Monday it was cutting the price of the Apple TV device to $69 from $99.Time Warner shares rose 1.3 percent to close at $85.20 on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of Netflix fell 1.9 percent to $445.63, while Apple shares climbed 0.4 percent to $127.14. Both trade on Nasdaq.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles and Malathi Nayak in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr)