HBO’s standalone streaming service went live in the U.S. on Tuesday, quite possibly marking the beginning of a whole new era in television.
The idea that premium cable networks could soon be accessed without a cable subscription has prompted many observers (including yours truly) to predict the eventual death of cable TV.
For $14.99 U.S. a month, Americans will be able to stream HBO like it’s Netflix — no cable TV subscription necessary. Subscribers to HBO Now, as it’s called, will have access to new shows almost instantaneously. They’ll be able to stream this Sunday’s season premiere of “Game of Thrones” at the same time as “live” TV viewers see it.
For the next three months, HBO Now will be available exclusively through Apple’s iTunes and will be accessible on Apple devices or desktop browsers, but apps for other platforms, including Android, are expected soon.
Yet none of this is happening in Canada.
Bell Media owns the rights to the HBO name in Canada, and operates HBO Canada independently of the U.S. brand that is owned by Time Warner.
And thanks to an “unprecedented” exclusivity deal Bell Media signed with HBO last year, all of HBO's off-air library of TV shows will be exclusively carried by Bell properties. HBO streaming will only be available to Canadians through Bell’s own Netflix competitor, CraveTV.
And the catch? You need a subscription to Bell's TV services to get CraveTV, or a subscription to one of the handful of other TV providers that have so far started offering it, such as Eastlink, Telus Optik and Northwestel (Bell hopes to get all TV providers on board). The cable/satellite TV era endures in Canada. At least for now.
Over at Reddit, Canadian fans of HBO are threatening revolution over the distinct absence of the streaming service. Or, more precisely, they’re threatening to pirate HBO content.
“It's like they actually want you to use torrent sites,” one user said, referring to the file-sharing application commonly used to pirate TV shows, movies and anything else digital.
Other commenters urged their fellow HBO fans not to pirate the network's shows, but rather to do use a similar trick one-third of Canadians are using to get U.S. Netflix, to get HBO Now.
For those of you wondering how to do that, the iPhone in Canada blog has a thorough explanation, but here’s the short version:
- You set up a U.S. iTunes account
- Download the HBO Now app while signed into the iTunes account, and sign up for a 30-day free trial, then
- Use a VPN to mask your real IP address and make HBO think you’re somewhere in the U.S., and
- Use a prepaid credit card to pay for HBO Now through iTunes
One caveat about this: Using VPNs or other technologies to watch geo-restricted content could be illegal under Canada’s new copyright laws, according to an assessment from a prominent law firm. So if you go this route, beware of possible legal ramifications, such as a lawsuit.
Another caveat about this: Bell Media will probably hate you for doing it.
The "Game of Thrones" people, on the other hand, don't seem to care as much what you do with their content, and a show director has even referred to piracy as a “compliment.”