HBO Now launching only on Apple devices; Apple TV price cut to $69

HBO’s new over-the-top service, HBO Now, will deploy just in time for this season’s debut of “Game of Thrones,” and, said CEO Richard Plepler, the service initially will be available only on Apple devices.

Plepler, at Apple’s press event Monday, said the service will launch on Apple in time for GoT’s April 12 opener, and will cost $14.99 a month, about the same as it does on most pay-TV services. Apple will have an exclusive on the streamer for three months.

“We are thrilled to be here this morning to announce our standalone streaming service HBO NOW and we couldn’t be prouder that Apple is our exclusive partner at launch,” Plepler said. “When you subscribe to HBO NOW you will have access to all our acclaimed original programming — past, present and future — as well as our unmatched lineup of Hollywood blockbusters.  All you need to get HBO NOW is a broadband connection and an Apple device.”

The exclusive deployment on Apple devices is a big differentiator for the hardware maker.

“Consumption is moving away from the PC towards other forms of connected devices (notably devices that connect to the TV and tablets). In this context, Apple’s exclusivity is a big deal as, at least for the moment, it means that there is a clear point of differentiation for Apple devices,” said Dan Cryan, director of broadband analysis for IHS Technology. “However, the lesson from Netflix is that to grow a digital customer base you have to reach consumers on the devices where they choose to consume content. Consequently we don’t expect this exclusivity to remain over the long term, unless HBO is heavily compensated.”

In its news release, Time Warner said HBO Now would be available on iOS devices and PCs. Does that mean HBO’s pay-TV partners could make HBO Now available via their TV Everywhere services. That’s something to be sorted out in the coming weeks.

As to Apple, CEO Tim Cook, during the event, announced Apple TV, its three-year-old digital streaming device will be reduced to $69 from $99, a 30 price reduction.

That move is coming from two fronts.

On the one hand, Apple likely is looking to hitch a ride on HBO Now’s deployment.

On the other, Apple TV is growing a little long in the tooth and hasn’t been upgraded substantially for a couple of years. While the lower piece puts Apple TV in line with Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices, as well as a bringing it closer to Google’s Chromecast, it also may be an effort to clear the shelves for a new Apple TV that has long been rumored to be on the way.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn