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The cheapest way to watch HBO without cable



From 1979 to 2015, the only way to watch HBO was through a cable subscription. Even HBO Go, the service’s streaming service, was tied to a cable subscription when it launched, leaving most to borrow account info from their parents to watch Game of Thrones. But thanks to the rise of live TV streaming, there are now several ways to watch HBO online without cable, and they vary pretty significantly when it comes to price and secondary perks. 

Curious which option is right for you? Here’s everything you need to know. Remember, just because something looks like a good deal doesn’t make it so. Maybe sure you read the fine print before you make a choice.

How to watch HBO online without cable

1. HBO Now

Cost: $14.99 per month flat, no extra subscription costs

If all you care about is streaming HBO, there’s no better or cheaper option than subscribing directly through HBO Now. (Here’s a brief rundown on the difference between HBO Go and HBO Now if you’re confused.) Each of the other services on this list requires you to subscribe to their main service before you can sign up for HBO as an add-on service, which means you’re mostly paying for the ease of watching HBO content through another service’s interface. That’s great if, for example, you’re looking to get a live TV package that also includes ESPN, but if you don’t mind using a standalone app, HBO Now is an incredible service. You get all of HBO’s content for a flat $14.99 per month, with no extra costs to consider.

Devices: HBO Now works on every prominent streaming device on the market including Amazon Fire Stick, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, Roku, Apple TV, Samsung smart TVs, iOS, and Android. While the service doesn’t have a Chromecast app, you can cast the HBO Now Android app on your Android device to your Chromecast-connected screen.

Photo via HBO Now

2. Hulu

Cost: $14.99 per month

Your next option is probably subscribing via Hulu. While most services allow you to watch HBO online at the same price point—$14.99 per month—Hulu offers the cheapest entry point. A basic Hulu subscription only costs $8 per month cost, which unlocks its entire collection of movies, shows, documentaries, anime, and the must-see Hulu originals—albeit with commercials. That brings your total to $23.99 a month. Thankfully, you don’t need Hulu with Live TV to subscribe to HBO through the service. Your basic Hulu subscription will do, and its interface is ideal for users who don’t mind learning mildly complicated menu options in the name of getting personalized recommendations. 

Devices: Streaming HBO via Hulu can be done on your computer, Android TV, iOS or Android device, Apple TV, PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, Roku, Amazon Fire devices, TiVo, Samsung smart TVs, Sony smart TVs, Wii U, Vizio smart TVs, and almost any other device you can think of. While there isn’t a Chromecast app, Android users can cast the Android Hulu app to their Chromecast.

Screengrab via Hulu

3. Amazon Prime

Cost: $14.99 per month

Subscribing to HBO via Amazon requires a Prime membership. Membership costs either $99.99 up front for the complete Prime service (which includes two-day Amazon shipping and other perks) or $8.99 per month for just its video options. Then you have to pay $14.99 per month for HBO. Still, there are advantages to using Amazon Prime’s video service as your primary streaming source. Rather than teach your family how to use multiple apps, Amazon Prime has a simple menu that puts all of your favorite Prime content right alongside your add-on channels. Ultimately, you’ll pay around the same cost per year for HBO through Prime as you would Hulu, Sling TV, or PS Vue. It boils down to what interface you prefer and what service you might already be subscribing to (or considering). It’s worth noting that Amazon has a considerable library of best Amazon originals, documentaries, and movies, including some in 4K Ultra HD, and there’s something new on Amazon every month.

Devices: Like Hulu, Amazon has strived to make sure their app can work on every device. If you have a smart TV, Roku, Android TV, Amazon Fire device, PlayStation 3 or 4, Xbox 360 or Xbox One, Android, iOS, or desktop computer, you’ll be able to stream Amazon’s video content.

Screengrab via Amazon

4. DirecTV Now

Cost: $5 per month

DirecTV Now, Direct TVs online streaming cable solution, is the only place online where you’ll be able to watch HBO online for less than $15 a month. At just $5 a month, HBO is a no-brainer for DirecTV Now subscribers. A basic DirecTV Now subscription costs $35 per month and comes with 60-plus channels in addition to local channels. For $40 a month you can get a world-class basic cable package, plus HBO, without signing any long-term commitments. It’s an incredible deal, one that’s made all the better for AT&T Unlimited customers, who get a $25 discount on every DirecTV Now package. But if you don’t need streaming cable, it’s still cheaper to just subscribe to HBO Now. If you’re a previous HBO subscriber through cable, DirecTV Now will have the most familiar on-demand and live streaming interfaces of all the services listed here.

Devices: DirecTV Now is a solid service that works on almost every device, with the notable exception of PlayStation consoles. DirecTV now works with Amazon devices, Roku, Android TV, Apple TV, iOS and Android, browsers, and even Chromecast.


Screengrab via DirecTV Now

5. Sling TV

Cost: $15 per month

As a live TV streaming service, Sling TV is a good deal, offering a small package of 30 premium channels like ESPN and AMC for just $20 per month. However, when you add a $15 HBO subscription for HBO, that costs balloons to $35 per month. That’s $5 cheaper than competitor DirecTV Now’s service with HBO, but DirecTV Now has twice the channels. Sling TV has an easy-to-learn interface, which makes it great to watch HBO online, but its costs are too high for the amount of content it offers, especially when you add on HBO service. Sling TV is a decent service, but until it adds channels, its basic package is just too basic to justify the cost as an HBO subscriber.

Devices: Sling TV is available on a wide range of platforms—Roku, Amazon Fire devices, Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV, Xiaomi, LG or Samsung smart TVs, iOS or Android, a computer, or an Xbox One—but like DirecTV Now, don’t expect to find it on PlayStation. 

Photo via Sling TV

Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance. 

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Snoke Screens: Designing the User Interfaces In The Last Jedi



You’ll find no touch screens in Star Wars: The Last Jedi—not even when you can watch it at home next month (March 13 for digital, two weeks later for physical). Same goes for mice and keyboards. They’re all too familiar, too of-this-world, to appear in a galaxy so far, far away. What you’ll find instead are interface displays, and lots of them. Whether in an X-wing’s cockpit or the bridge of a Star Destroyer, every display in The Last Jedi exists to support the story—to provide a graphical complement to the film’s action and dialogue.

And it started with the film’s director. “Whenever possible, Rian [Johnson] wanted us to use practical graphics to enforce the narrative,” says creative director Andrew Booth, who oversaw the creation of TLJ’s assorted instrument clusters, targeting systems, medical readouts, and tactical displays. “It would actually appear in the script that you look at a screen and gain a deeper understanding of what’s happening. The challenge was always, what can we do in-camera to create something that feels real and believable?”

What’s impressive about the interfaces in The Last Jedi is that they feel believable not just to the audience, but to the film’s dramatis personae. In the real world, designers design for one person: the user. But creatives like Booth—whose design agency, BLIND LTD, has been behind the look and feel of some of this century’s biggest blockbusters, including every Star Wars film from TFA onward—designed the practical displays in The Last Jedi with at least three groups of people in mind: the characters, the actors depicting those characters, and the folks watching along in theaters.

Consider the film’s opening scene, in which (fair warning: plot points and spoilers from here on out) Commander Poe Dameron calls General Hux. The point of Poe’s call is to buy time; he’s charging the engines on his X-wing so he can stage a surprise attack on the First Order Dreadnought that’s poised to obliterate his Resistance buddies planetside. It’s a plan the audience comes to understand when the camera cuts to a display inside Poe’s starfighter that shows the status of his boosters.

The inside of Poe’s X-wing. The top display depicts the Dreadnaught tower Poe attacks at the beginning of the film; the middle one shows the status bar for his X-wing’s engines; and the bottom one, which is all wonky, visualizes his spaceship’s damaged targeting system.

“For us, that’s a perfect piece of storytelling,” Booth says. “Now you’ve got exposition, drama, and tension all wrapped up in this close-up of a progress bar.” And because it’s a practical effect, that tension is experienced by audience, actor, and character alike. In fact, every single display in Poe’s cockpit pulls triple duty: The top one depicts the tower Poe is attacking; the middle one shows the status bar for his X-wing’s engines; and the bottom one, which is all wonky, visualizes his spaceship’s damaged targeting system, which BB-8 spends much of the sequence trying to repair.

These kinds of details don’t always make it into the final cut of a film, and even when they do, audiences don’t always notice them. Not explicitly, anyway. “For us, these graphics are more about shape and form than they are about spelling things out—but they do allow people to feel what’s going on in a scene, and they help support the actor’s performance,” Booth says.


The WIRED Guide to Star Wars

Similar details abound inside the spacecraft from Canto Bight, the opulent casino city. The graphics aboard the ship that DJ and BB-8 steal are shiny. Slinky. Sumptuous. A striking contrast to the First Order’s stark, militaristic vibes and the ragtag aesthetics of the Resistance. “This was us trying to evoke a different world,” Booth says.

But even the film’s familiar spaces brim with visual information. Toward the end of the film, on the chalk-dusted mining planet Crait, the audience gets multiple glimpses inside Kylo Ren’s shuttle, from which he has orchestrated the First Order’s assault on what remains of the Resistance. “The aesthetic is sharp, clean, systematic—just like the First Order, itself, and the color palette is all red, grey, black and white,” Booth says.

Inside Kylo Ren’s shuttle, above the battle on Crait.

These are classic, higher-order stylistic cues, many of which date back to the original trilogy. During pre-production on The Force Awakens BLIND LTD researched the original designs closely, and collaborated with production designers Rick Carter and Darren Gilford to get the look and feel just right. The graphics continued to evolve with Lucasfilm design supervisor Kevin Jenkins and production designer Rick Heinrichs on The Last Jedi. They immediately help viewers understand where they are and whose ship it is. (The Resistance’s aesthetic, by contrast, is analog and unstructured—its color palette dominated by orange, green, brown, and other earth colors.)

But look closely, and you’ll see that the screens inside the shuttle are loaded with details. Crait’s topography, the blast door separating the Resistance from the First Order, the line of AT-ATs—they’re all depicted on screens, often for the briefest of moments. “It gives you an idea of the level of detail that we put into these interfaces,” Booth says. “It’s one of the things we pride ourselves on: You don’t necessarily always see it, but you sure as hell feel it.”

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Verizon Fios joins T-Mobile in offering free Netflix to customers

Charmaine Blake



Image: smith collection/gado/Getty Images

Every product here is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our work.

Verizon has a new, formidable partner: Netflix

Starting Tuesday, Verizon began bundling a free one-year Netflix subscription into its Fios Triple Play package (which includes internet, television, and phone service). 

Verizon Fios customers who subscribe to the company’s Multi-Room DVR Enhanced or Premium service will also be able to stream their favorite Netflix series directly to their TV. Just navigate to channel 838 to launch the service. 

Verizon isn’t the only company to offer such a bundle. T-Mobile already offers free subscriptions (unlimited, as opposed to Verizon’s one-year deal) to the streaming service to users with more than two lines on a voice plan. AT&T offers free HBO, and Sprint offers free access to Tidal’s streaming platform HiFi. 

However, Verizon is the first company to bundle a Netflix subscription into cable TV. 

We expect that these bundles will only become more common as net neutrality fades into the past. With ISPs no longer allowed to play favorites, it’s possible that streaming services like Netflix could cost even more to access, or that some providers could block it entirely. A free subscription to the streaming service could tip some people from one provider, or plan, to another.

And while cable companies don’t always compete with each other (many people don’t get to choose their provider), they do compete with streaming services. In 2016, almost 2% of cable TV customers cancelled their subscriptions (a large increase from the previous year), and the dominance of streaming services was cited as the primary cause. 

Verizon’s move perfectly embodies the phrase “If you can’t beat them, join them.” By footing the cost of the most popular streaming services, Verizon could make its cable package all the more appealing to millennials who would otherwise stick with an internet-only package. 

Is the deal worth it? If you’re currently a wifi-only customer, probably not. Fios’ Triple Play package is $79.99 per month, while the wifi alone is $39.99 per month. Netflix’s standard plan is $10.99 per month. So if you don’t need television or a landline, it’s not worth shelling out for the Triple Play package just for free Netflix. 

But if you were already paying for Triple Play, you’ll get a nice treat. And maybe, as more TV subscribers cut the cord every year, you’ll keep yours intact. 

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YouTube’s TV streaming service comes to Roku

Charmaine Blake



Image: Roku

Every product here is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our work.

YouTube TV streaming service is now available on select Roku devices, Roku announced Thursday. 

YouTube TV lets users stream live television from nearly 50 networks for $35 per month. This includes ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, CW, Disney Channel, ESPN, FX and Telemundo, among others. Some premium and sports networks such as Showtime and Fox Soccer Plus can be had for an additional monthly fee. 

YouTube’s TV streaming service is currently available in 80 metropolitan areas; for a full list, click here

Last October, YouTube TV launched a dedicated app for TVs and set-top boxes, which first launched on Android TVs, Xbox One, and smart TVs from LG and Samsung. Back then it was announced that the app is coming to Roku and Apple TV, but the launch on Apple TV was delayed into Q1 2018. 

The service comes with a few extra features on Roku, including Cloud DVR with no storage limit, your own pwersonalized library and recommendations, a full program guide, background playback (so you don’t miss that key moment while browsing the app) and sharing the service with up to 5 other people in your household.

YouTube TV is available in the Roku Channel Store and can be added from here

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