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HBO's new streaming service was front and center at Apple's big product announcement. Within moments of taking the stage the tech giant's CEO, Tim Cook, handed the reins over to HBO CEO Richard Plepler who unveiled "HBO Now," which will launch on Apple TV and be available exclusively on Apple devices for three months
The service, which Plepler first announced last fall, will go on sale for $14.99 per month in early April on Apple TV, ahead of the launch of the fifth season of "Game of Thrones" on April 12. (The price is roughly what it costs to add HBO to a traditional pay-TV service.) And in a move that should give HBO a bigger audience for its streaming app: Apple lowered the price of its Apple TV box from $99 to $69.
The exclusivity window does not apply to pay-TV providers, however, so the likes of Comcast, AT&T or Verizon could start selling the app, bundled together with high-speed Internet, when HBO Now launches in April.
This is a momentous move for premium cable TV—for the first time the biggest of the premium cable giants is going outside the traditional pay-TV bundle. The big question is how many subscribers HBO's direct-to-consumer service draws.
And while Plepler has said he's targeting his service at those consumers who don't pay for cable TV, we'll see whether this service (along with all the other direct-to-consumer services from the likes of CBS), start to cannibalize HBO's core business: selling its content as part of a pay-TV bundle.
Here's how it will work: HBO Now will give subscribers access to more than 2,000 titles, essentially all the network's original programming past, present and future as well as its lineup of Hollywood blockbusters, said Plepler. The library is similar to the library of HBO Go, the app for subscribers to pay-TV services, Plepler said. And consumers will get access as soon as they air.
As soon as it launches in April, customers can subscribe to HBO Now on their Apple device (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch), or on an Apple TV. Once subscribers register they can also watch at HBONOW.com. HBO is offering a free month to new customers who sign up in April.
It's no surprise that HBO is partnering with Apple as a launch partner—the company announced Monday that more than 25 million people use the box "for movies, TV shows, music and more." We can expect HBO Now to soon be made available via other streaming services, including the Roku box, Google's Chromecast, Amazon's FireTV, Microsoft's Xbox, etc.
Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com.