In what could only be described as a mild case of competing against its own interests, Verizon Wireless will soon let its users access HBO Now. This standalone, $15-per-month service allows customers to access both new and archived HBO content without a cable subscription, which makes it all the more puzzling that Verizon is keen to distribute it.
Verizon and HBO announced the partnership today (July 28), and explained that HBO Now is now available to Verizon Wireless customers, as well as those who subscribe to Verizon FiOS, even if they don't have a cable TV package. HBO Now is currently available on iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets, and Amazon Fire tablets.
The HBO Now partnership seems to run counter to the strategy of a company that thrives on selling cable subscriptions. Traditionally, HBO has been a "premium" cable channel, meaning that customers must pay an additional fee on top of a basic cable package to watch it. HBO Now, however, bypasses the middleman and opens the floor to anyone who wants to watch, whether it's on a computer or a mobile device (but not directly on a TV).
Verizon also touts the fact that it will offer customer a free, 30-day trial of the service before they have to commit to the recurring $15 subscription fee. When registering for the service, customers can choose Verizon as their provider.
It's worth noting that Verizon is not the first cable provider to act as a gateway to HBO Now content. Optimum (a Cablevision service) offers the same functionality, with the same price and the same 30-day trial.
However, here's where it gets confusing: You don't need Verizon or Optimum at all. Apple, Google and Amazon all allow HBO Now subscriptions through them, with exactly the same free trial and overall price structure. If you plan to watch HBO Now primarily on an Apple device, it would make sense to register through Apple as a provider — likewise for Amazon and Android. Registering for HBO Now through Verizon does not seem to confer any special benefit.
Still, a cable company offering a way to bypass a pricey cable subscription seems to be a sign of the times. Cable subscriptions have not yet declined in any significant fashion, but the downward trend seems almost inevitable, thanks to the rise of services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and, of course, HBO Now.
Existing Verizon customers may want to check the offer out. While it's hard to say what Verizon's long-term plans might be, everyday subscribers could see some kind of promotional price break somewhere down the line.
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