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.
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.