HBO, Apple Announce Stand-Alone HBO Now Service On Apple TV, App Store

HBO and Apple will debut a stand-alone service called HBO Now on the Apple TV and Apple’s App Store, the companies’ CEOs announced today at a larger Apple event in San Francisco at the Yerba Buena Center. The service will cost $14.99, with the first month free initially for those who sign up through Apple devices, and will be available beginning in April.

The big news is the service won’t require a separate subscription from a Pay-TV provider, either cable or satellite, to get HBO Now. The unbundling of HBO shows in a stand-alone app has been discussed by execs for a few months now, but no price or availability had been announced. HBO Now appears to be a different offering than the existing HBO Go app that Time Warner offers for its premium pay-TV service.

The Apple TV, long called a “hobby” by Apple execs, has 25 million users, CEO Tim Cook said. The service will be available exclusively on Apple TV and Apple’s App Store, which would make it available for use on Apple’s mobile devices, the iPad and iPhone as well. The exclusive deal is reportedly for three months, making it available on competing devices sometime in the summer.

Separately, the Apple TV itself will now cost $69, Cook said. It previously cost $99, but that price was becoming increasingly uncompetitive with streaming-video devices from Roku, Google, Amazon and others that increasingly are priced below $50 and/or provide broader functionality, such as the game-playing capabilities of Google’s Nexus Player.

In wrapping up Apple’s many announcements today – which also included much more detail about the Apple Watch launch, and a sleek new 2-lb. MacBook – Cook said the HBO Now deal was the start of much more to come. He seemed to be referring to creating more programming and functionality on the Apple TV.

Ever since the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson not long before his death that he had finally “cracked” TV, speculation has raged about whether that meant a new kind of TV, or services provided to any TV through something like a super-powered Apple TV or similar device.

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