HBO relents, says standalone HBO Go subscription streaming service launching in 2015


Cable cutters, rejoice! HBO has relented and will go forward with plans to enable a standalone streaming service in 2015, Re/code reported Wednesday.

Though details are scarce, the forthcoming service will allow people to watch HBO’s original programming, TV shows, movies, documentaries and more, but without pay TV subscription.

According to HBO CEO Richard Plepler speaking at Time Warner Inc.’s investor day meeting on Wednesday, the company is indeed planning to launch a “standalone, over-the-top” subscription offering at some point next year. The disruptive move couldn’t be overstated as it’s going to be a major blow to the complacent American cable industry.

The subscription HBO Go service will be initially offered in the United States, but Plepler says they’re planning to bring it to customers overseas in a move he called ”transformative for our company” because a standalone streaming could be “just as large, if not larger,” than the US market.

HBO’s parent company, Time Warner Inc., confirmed the move in a media release, saying HBO will work with both current and new partners as it explores new models.

“That is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped,” he said. “It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO. So, in 2015, we will launch a standalone, over-the-top, HBO service in the United States.”

He refused to talk about other specifics like price or whether the online version of the service will be a windowed version of HBO available to pay TV customers.

If the latter, major shows may not appear on the online subscription version until months after they debut on TV. As a point of reference, Netflix is available for eight to ten bucks per month and has more than 50 million subscribers on the web.

HBO Go is currently available bundled with so-called triple-play services from telecommunications companies and cannot be purchased without a cable or satellite subscription.

Although it’s possible to get HBO and HBO Go without paying a ridiculous $100+ cable bill, the service must be purchased together with a subscription to a broadband Internet service.

HBO Go is supported across a myriad of different platforms and services, including on the Apple TV, but again — a pay TV subscription is needed to authorize the Apple TV app.

There’s no doubt that a web-only HBO Go offering is going to change the game, especially knowing that one out of each four millennials doesn’t watch pay TV at all.

Plepler drove the point home saying the upcoming service will target the ten million people in the United States who subscribe to broadband, but don’t watch television. All in, there are 80 million homes that do not have HBO.

[Re/code, Time Warner PR]