Until now, it was impossible for cord cutters to legally obtain HBO programming on their Apple TV. Sure, you could use someone else’s HBO Go credentials, but it’s not exactly an ideal solution. Now, Apple and HBO and partnering to bring a new, standalone streaming service to the Apple TV. The new service is HBO Now, and it is available now. HBO was eager to get Now set up before April 12, when Game of Thrones returns. Here’s hoping HBO Now will avoid the frustrating crashes that Game of Thrones fans experienced when using HBO Go to watch the fourth season premiere.
According to Apple’s March 9 live stream keynote, all new HBO Now subscribers who subscribe in April will get their first month free. The service will cost $14.99 per month after the introductory period. If you want to subscribe to HBO Now, here’s a guide to getting started and setting up the service on your Apple TV.
1. Buy an Apple TV
You don’t strictly need an Apple TV for HBO Now, but it’s arguably a nicer way to watch your favorite shows. You can also use any iOS device to access the service, provided you have downloaded the iOS HBO Now app. The service will also be available via the web. That being said, to appreciate some shows, you really want a full-screen TV experience. That’s where the Apple TV comes in.
If you don’t already have one, you can find them at the Apple Store, or on Amazon. The Apple TV just had a price drop from $99 to $69, though you may have to pay slightly more than $70 to get an Apple TV bundle kit, with comes complete with important accessories like an HDMI cable. The Apple TV comes with a remote, but you can also use your iPhone or other iOS device to control the Apple TV in the event your remote goes missing. We recommend spending $9 on this handy Apple TV remote holder, which will help you keep track of your remote.
Apple will be the exclusive HBO Now partner at launch, but you can expect the service to become available on other platforms in the future. It has been reported that Apple’s exclusivity agreement with HBO Now will be limited to three months, so you can expect to see other set top boxes or streaming dongles offer HBO Now sometime after that date.
One last caveat for new Apple TV buyers who want HBO Now. If you don’t yet have a broadband connection, you’ll need to get one. HBO Now on your Apple TV will require a fast connection. Contact your cable or Internet provider for pricing information in your area.
2. Subscribe to HBO Now
You can set up your HBO Now subscription from within the iOS app or Apple TV app. The HBO Now channel should appear on the main menu screen of your Apple TV: no need to download anything first. Within the app, you can complete the sign-up process and activate your subscription. If you sign up in April, your first month should be free.
New subscribers will pay for the service through their existing iTunes/Apple account. You will have to fill in some basic information to complete registration, such as your name, email, and ZIP code. You will also need to select a password for using HBO Now.
To get more information about this new HBO service, head over to HBONow.com. This will give you an idea of the features, programming, and restrictions you can expect to encounter when using HBO Now.
Do note the fine print at the bottom of the HBO Now page, which states:
HBO NOW is only accessible in the U.S. and certain U.S. territories where a high-speed broadband connection is available. Minimum 3G connection is required for viewing on mobile devices. HBO NOW is available through participating partners. Prices may vary for participating partners.
As long as you are trying to access the HBO Now service from within the United States, and you have completed the subscription process correctly, and have valid credit card info associated with your iTunes account, you should simply be able to sign in to the app and start watching right away.
3. Note the Restrictions on HBO Now
In addition to the restrictions listed above, let’s make one more thing crystal clear. HBO Now will not offer live, simulcast content. In other words, you can’t watch Game of Thrones on HBO Now at the same time the episode premieres on the actual HBO TV channel. The episodes will be available to watch online shortly after the TV airing has concluded
HBO Now will only be available within the United States and select territories at launch. However, given the fact that HBO operates in 60 countries around the world, it is likely that HBO Now will expand its service area in the coming months and years. However, for the time being, HBO Now is not available in Canada, Central America, South America, Europe, Africa, or Asia.
4. Navigate to Find the Program You Want to Watch
HBO Now’s main navigation bar is divided into six sections: Watchlist, Series, Movies, More (where you can find sports/comedy programs), Search, and Settings. You can browse to find a title you like, or simply search for a specific program. Once you’ve found something, you can start watching your favorite shows, commercial-free.
If you are using either the Apple TV or iOS app to access HBO Now, be forewarned. Some users are experiencing long loading screens while waiting to register within the app. Registration seems less frustrating on iOS devices at this time, with some users on the Apple TV reporting perpetual load screens that read “Acessing HBO NOW” for a long period of time without loading the registration screen. If you are having issues setting up a new account on your Apple TV, try setting up the service on your iOS device first.
Once you get to the main menu, however, it should be smooth sailing. The Verge notes that their testing of the new HBO Now service on the Apple TV went smoothly, specifically stating that streams started up quickly, and “without any noticeable buffering or freezing issues.” Of course, that may change the night when Game of Thrones returns to TV, and fans are hammering the servers in their attempt to watch the season premiere.