By this summer, cord-cutters who want to watch “Game of Thrones,” “Girls,” or “True Detective” will no longer have to wait for the DVDs to come out.
The company officially said today that it intends to launch HBO Now, a stand-alone streaming service that people can purchase for $14.99 a month, even if they don't subscribe to cable television.
A version of the service for personal computers and for devices using Apple's iOS will launch in April; the service expected to be more widely available by July. The company says that as with the older HBO Go, HBO Now will offer both current episodes and prior seasons of current shows “Game of Thrones,” as well as prior offerings like “The Wire” and "Sex and the City."
While the news left many cord-cutters cheering, it's worth pointing out that cable companies could still find ways to prevent people from taking advantage of the new offering.
One way is by throttling programs from HBO. The net neutrality rules that were just passed by the Federal Communications Commission prohibit cable companies and other Internet service providers from degrading or blocking service. But there's no guarantee that those rules will hold up in court.
Another is by shifting to pay-per-byte billing, which would involve charging broadband subscribers based on the amount of data they consume. Even if the new net neutrality rules stand up in court, it's not yet clear whether they will curb ISPs' ability to implement data caps or metered billing.
Former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski took the position that pay-per-byte billing potentially could be a “healthy and beneficial” innovation.
For his part, current FCC head Tom Wheeler hasn't said much, if anything, on the subject.