HBO Inches Closer to Apple TV

But cable-cutting option not on table

Over the last few years HBO has aggressively expanded the footprint of its streaming on-demand service HBO Go, bringing it to Microsoft's Xbox gaming console and Roku among others. The service's gaping hole has been Apple.

HBO's 114 million subscribers have been able to download the HBO Go app to their iPads or iPhones, but they haven't been able to watch it through Apple TV. Starting Tuesday, they can–sort of. Now iPad and iPhone owners who have downloaded the HBO Go mobile app can stream content playing in the app to their Apple TVs through Apple's Airplay technology, said HBO president and COO Eric Kessler on stage during All Things D's D: Dive Into Media event.

The move is a step towards a full-blown HBO Go app on Apple TV–as Netflix, Hulu Plus and YouTube currently offer and as HBO provides on Xbox–but not quite there. Nonetheless Kessler expects user adoption akin to Xbox. "People using Xbox are watching 23 hours a month of HBO. We expect to see similar [numbers] with AirPlay," he said.

As for whether a legit HBO Go Apple TV app is in the works, "assume we're having conversations [with companies behind any device HBO Go is not currently on]," said Kessler.

However the Apple TV app is more likely than the ability to buy an HBO subscription outside of a cable or satellite subscription. That's because HBO would "add a nominal amount of subscribers" while agitating and perhaps losing its distribution partners, Kessler said. "When the size of the [non-cable subscriber] market reaches a point where it's worthwhile and we can [maintain existing distribution relationships], then by pursuing a direct-to-consumer model [is a possibility]. Today we would end up losing revenue."