Cable Surrenders: Cablevision First ISP to Offer HBO Now

The first cable TV company has surrendered to cord cutters. Cablevision, a regional cable TV company and ISP that serves New Jersey, Long Island and parts of New York City, announced today (March 16) that it will offer HBO's new streaming service, HBO Now, to customers with its Optimum Internet service. No cable TV subscription is required.

Cablevision hasn't named a price yet. (HBO Now will be $15 per month on Apple devices.) Nor has it announced a launch date. But in a statement to the press, Cablevision reassured that HBO Now will be up in time for the Game of Thrones Season 5 premier on April 12. The timing is also a surprise, since Apple is supposed to have a three-month exclusive on the streaming service, which was announced at Apple's Spring Forward media event last week. Perhaps Cablevision's offering will work with only Apple's gadgets initially. 

MORE: Guide to Cable TV Cord Cutting

In any case, ordering just HBO represents the platonic ideal of TV watchers and especially cord cutters: Give me just the channels I want, and don't make me pay for hundreds that I don't care about. It also seemed like an impossible dream until this year. Why would cable providers give up the cash cow of deluxe TV packages, just to sell a cheaper, streamlined package?

Today it seems that answer is: They have no choice. With HBO's announcement last week that it will offer its full service online, cable companies can no longer hold it back as an incentive to pay for their deluxe service package. And this isn't an isolated case. HBO Now follows online offers of other premium channels, including AMC and ESPN, on the $20-per-month Sling TV service (see review) that launched in February. 

Cable companies aren't completely left out, though, since they are also the main Internet service providers in the U.S. It looks like Cablevision has decided to make the most of the situation by offering HBO as an add-on to its Optimum Internet service. Optimum certainly has the bandwidth. As a Brooklyn resident, I pay about $45 per month for Internet service up to 50Mbps for downloads and 25Mbps for uploads. (About 5Mbps is enough for a full-HD video stream, according to Netflix.)

Though Cablevision has not said how much HBO Now will cost, it will likely be less than $15 per month. If there isn't some discount, why hassle with your cable company to get the service? Apple has a three-month device exclusive on HBO Now, after which it's very likely to come to many more devices. After all, the network's app for cable TV subscribers, HBO Go, already runs in nearly every streaming platform, including set top boxes, computers and mobile devices. From a technological standpoint, HBO Now is essentially the same thing.

Follow Sean Captain @seancaptain. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

Sean Captain is a freelance technology and science writer, editor and photographer. At Tom's Guide, he has reviewed cameras, including most of Sony's Alpha A6000-series mirrorless cameras, as well as other photography-related content. He has also written for Fast Company, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Wired. 

  • TechyInAZ
    Defiantly knew this was coming. Eventually cable will disappear and all TV will be run thru the internet.
  • eriko
    @ TechyInAZ

    I agree with you, but that wasn't the reason for my recent cancellation of my Cable TV, it was the prices - over the past few years it just went up, up, and up.

    So at the most recent price rise, I called, and cancelled my contract.

    I then, took out a new internet-only subscription that was as fast as money could buy (for residential).

    But what really chapped my @ss, was paying for Muslim TV, Gay TV, Shopping Channel, Cartoons, Football channels, (insert other awful network here).

    It felt like supporting banks that should have been allowed to fail - let us choose *each and every channel* we want, and thus pay proportinally, NOT the cr@ppy 'packages' they try to force-feed down my throat. I don't want, nor need 110 channels of garbage, I'd just like about 15 of MY CHOOSING.

    So Mr. Cable Operator, let me choose *each and every channel*, and you CAN have my money again. Oh how my heart would bleed watching Muslim TV shut down due to lack of subsciptions...

    Otherwise, Mr. Cable Operator? Fade into insignificance...
  • jasonelmore
    Sure TV is coming to Internet, but what you guys don't realize is Metered Internet Connections are also coming.

    They are going to meter it per GB. You might not have a physical meter like electric or water, but know it's coming.

    Cable companies want a easy way to charge the Video Streamers More money than say a daily web surfer who just checks emails and reads forums. And rightly so.. Video Streamers, those who download 50GB games off Xbox, etc.. should pay more since their impact on the network is severe.

    So you heard it here first people. Metered internet is inevitable.
  • seancaptain
    Really interesting insights, all. Without getting into the merits of different programming, I think the overriding point is that people want to pay for only the channels they like. Online services tend to be more customizable, and it seems that consumers want to apply that same model to cable/satellite.

    Paying by the GB is a possibility. One benefit of the net neutrality regulations - whatever your thoughts on them - is that ISPs will have to be very upfront about what they are offering and charging.

    We are living in interesting times.