Cablevision Becomes First Pay-TV Provider To Offer HBO NOW To Broadband Customers

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The Net Neutrality Drinking Game

Following Apple’s announcement last week that it would be the first device maker to offer HBO’s new standalone streaming service, HBO NOW, to U.S. consumers, HBO today revealed that New York-based Cablevision Systems will become the first pay-TV provider to do the same for its broadband customers. That is, those who subscribe to Cablevision’s Optimum internet service – but not its cable TV package – will have the option to purchase access to HBO NOW in the near future.

With Apple’s agreement, HBO NOW is priced at $14.99 per month. But it’s unclear if that same pricing will be made available to Cablevision customers – the company isn’t yet disclosing the pricing or other details about how the service will work at this point. That hints at the possibility of it being bundled into cable packages at different price points, for example.

However, Optimum is expected to launch the service in April, which means it will arrive in time for the fifth season of Game of Thrones.

“As New York’s premier connectivity company, we are enabling Optimum Online customers to enjoy content in any way they choose to receive it,” said Kristin Dolan, Cablevision chief operating officer in statement today. “We are well-positioned to support HBO NOW and, as technology advances, Cablevision will continue to meet the evolving needs of our customers.”

Apple customers will be able to sign up for the over-the-top service in April, provided they have an Apple TV or iOS device, like an iPhone or iPad. Subscribers will also be able to watch their programming online via the HBO NOW website. But it was still something of an unknown as to which cable TV providers would embrace this new offering, which competes against their existing (and still profitable) cable add-on packages which they upsell to their pay TV subscribers.

In fact, since the Apple announcement, we’ve been hearing anecdotal reports from various pay TV subscribers with Verizon, Comcast and U-verse of their being presented with offers of free HBO packages in exchange for being a “loyal customer,” for example, or when they call in to complain or terminate service. But companies reps’ have insisted these offers are nothing more than long-standing promotional programs, and nothing has changed with regard to the frequency or reach of those programs in the days since Apple’s HBO announcement. (Of course, from a customer’s perspective, being the recipient of an email promising free HBO only days after the announcement of a standalone service can at least feel not entirely coincidental.)

Cablevision says it will offer the new HBO NOW streaming service via the internet and Optimum Wi-Fi, its Wi-Fi network that includes 1.1 million hotspots across the tri-state area. That doesn’t mean these customers will be limited to web-only viewing, HBO clarified when we asked. The new agreement is just another means of them gaining access to the new service.