It’s finally here, the service we’ve all been waiting for: it’s HBO Go without actually needing cable. HBO Now has been touted as Netflix for HBO shows, watch all your favorites without paying for all those stupid extra channels the cable companies stick you with. When I first heard HBO was going for a direct streaming kind of deal, I couldn’t wait. $14.99 a month for full quality, non-pirated Game of Thrones? Sign me up.
And it’s not just the popular shows currently running, HBO Now gives you access to all their shows, old and new, some shows I didn’t even know were theirs. Deadwood, Real Time with Bill Maher, Little Britain USA, and a lot more, including movies and collections that change out every month.
HBO Now launched last week just before the premier of the new season of Game of Thrones (hats off to their marketing department). I waited a week to figure out if I wanted to sign up for one main reason. For the first three months, HBO Now is exclusive with Apple, which means the only way to get it at the moment, is through Apple TV or the App store.
First, the good news: signing up was just about as difficult as falling off a log. There was the slight irritation of having to download the HBONow app on my iPhone to create the account, then sign back in from my computer to actually watch something. I just got my first smart phone two weeks ago and I’m still not used to all the ins and outs of making transactions on a tiny, 3×5 inch screen. I’m also not big on watching TV shows on a 3×5 screen. That’s another bit of bad news: there is no app available for game consoles yet. You can watch on all Apple devices by downloading the app, or on a laptop by simply going to the HBO Now site and logging in.
Back to the good news: once I downloaded the app and realized all my payment information was already linked through the App Store, a giant step that usually comes with subscription services disappeared. All I had to do was put in my e-mail and password, and that was it, I was up and running. I got the confirmation e-mail and everything.
As a cord cutter, I watch TV shows on my laptop all the time. I am very used to buffering. There wasn’t much here, about 5 seconds of the spinny loading wheel, and my show started. The sound did leave something to be desired. The volume was fine, and while my laptop doesn’t have the best speakers in the world, there was still this strange crackling sound every thirty seconds or so. I’m not sure if it’s something wrong with the service (I did see a few reviews about bad sound when watching on a laptop) or the general crappiness of my laptop in particular. Since the service is so new, I’m willing to give this a mulligan and hope they work it out.
The feed was a little choppy too, though it never actually stopped to buffer or load again. The video quality was good enough to make up for the stuttering feed and overall, I’m happy with the service so far. Netflix covers basically any show or movie I’d ever want to watch except HBO, and now I have that gap filled.
After the exclusive launch with Apple is done, more devices will be added, so if your preferred device isn’t on their list, wait a little. For anyone who’s still on the fence, I do recommend giving it a try. The first 30 days are a free trial, like every other streaming service that isn’t HuluPlus. Don’t like it? Delete it, no damage done. Though, it already looks like it’s worth the money. Mostly, I like what I see so far. My opinion might change in a few days, but generally, if the service itself can make me forget how much I disliked the signup process, I usually have a winner on my hands.
How to sign up for HBO Now:
- Download the HBO Now app on your Apple device or Optimum Online Service
- Open the app and click “Sign Up” (the button is huge and hard to miss)
- Enter your e-mail address and create a password (at some point in here, it’ll ask for your Apple ID password again)
- Receive the confirmation e-mail, and you’re done!
- Have fun watching HBO shows you no longer have to pirate.