Apple TV is going to be the only way to watch HBO's cord-cutter-friendly streaming service, at least when the service launches.
HBO Now will debut at the beginning of April, according to network CEO Richard Plepler, who spoke at Apple's press conference this morning in San Francisco, and will play exclusively on Apple hardware.
"All you need to get HBO Now is a broadband connection and an Apple device," Plepler told the audience. "We couldn't be prouder that Apple is our exclusive partner at launch."
The service will debut for "$14.99 a month in early April," Plepler said. "If you subscribe in April you will get the first month free and have it in time for the premiere of our global phenomenon, Game of Thrones." (The show returns April 17.)
Immediately after Plepler left the stage, Apple CEO Tim Cook returned to announce that the Apple TV was being marked down from $99 to $69, which is a good deal compared to competitor devices like the Roku 3 and Amazon Fire TV (both retailing at $99) but still a bit pricier than slimmer options like the Google Chromecast ($35) and Amazon Fire TV Stick ($39).
Doubling down on the Apple TV peripheral is an interesting strategy. As connected TVs become more common, the hardware in bridge devices is more commonly a part of a new television straight out of the box. But the Apple-only agreement with HBO is a compelling reason to invest in the device.
Of course, there's fine print: "HBO continues to be in discussions with its existing network of distributors and new digital partners to offer HBO Now," the network said in a press release sent out immediately after the announcement (and during the latter part of the press conference). "At launch, HBO Now will be available on iOS devices and on PCs."
No word yet on how long the exclusivity with Apple will last, but clearly, it won't be forever. But if we were gamblers here, we'd say it'll stay exclusive at least through the end of Season 5 of Game of Thrones, though the network might just be holding out until after the season launches.
UPDATE: Sure enough, the window of exclusivity will be three months. HBO has that long, at least, to try to finesse its partnerships with cable companies, who can't possibly be happy to see one of the crown jewels of the cable sub model stolen away.