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 ofThrones. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When you start researching video streaming devices, the first ones you’ll find will likely be Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV. Between those three there’s a decent price range, so your search can just stop there, right?
Wrong. While the most popular video streaming devices out there will likely be a good fit for many users, there are other options you should look at.
Perhaps you’re looking for more versatility? Maybe you’re a power user that wants something extremely tweakable? Are you looking for a cheap PlayStation alternative? Or you’re just looking for the cheapest possible option out there that also does 4K?
We’ve rounded up some of the lesser-known video streaming devices out there to ease your search.
China’s Xiaomi has a reputation for delivering solid products with top-notch specs for an impossibly low price. The company has done it with nearly every gadget you can think of — from smartphones to smart TVs to scooters, and with the Xiaomi Mi Box, it entered the video streaming space as well.
And yes, for the features it offers — Android TV 6.0, 4K streaming, HDR video support, DTS/Dolby Digital Plus support and a Bluetooth voice remote — the Mi Box is pretty darn cheap at $69. Add to that the elegant, simple, Apple-like design, and you get a pretty sweet deal.
Since the device is Android TV-based, you get a ton of apps, including Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Vevo, Vudu Plex, and Google Play Movies & TV. Google Cast is built in, so you’ll be able to send content to your TV from phones, laptops, tablets and more.
The specs are decent: quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU, MALI 450 GPU 2GB of RAM, 8GB of flash storage (expandable via a USB port). And this is where you might find chinks in Mi Box’s armor: While these specs are decent, especially for the price, some users might want more powerful innards to power 4K playback.
Starting at $179, the Nvidia Shield is one of the most expensive video streaming devices, but hear us out. This device is an absolute powerhouse, with an Nvidia Tegra X1 processor, 3GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, which should be enough for smooth 4K playback. It also supports HDR playback, Dolby Atmos/DTS-X audio, and comes with a remote, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.0 jacks, and an HDMI 2.0 jack. It runs Android TV, meaning you get the Google software experience and all the nice apps that go with it.
But besides being a great media-streaming machine, the Shield’s greatest strength is that it’s also a game console. Add $20 to the base price and you get a game controller (for $299 you also get 500GB of storage instead of 16GB). So what can you do with all that? Play games, of course! For $7.99 per month, you can subscribe to GeForce Now, which lets you play Android titles such as Outlast 2, Obduction, and The Surge as you would with a GTX 1080 GPU, and stream them to your big screen.
Obviously, you do not need this device if you only want a media streaming device, and that’s perfectly fine. But if price is no issue, and you’re not a big fan of Apple TV, the Nvidia Shield is pretty powerful, and one of the most versatile media streaming devices you’ll find.
Roku sells quite a few video streaming devices, so you’ll be forgiven if you’ve overlooked the Roku Express. Its specs are nothing special: You get 720p or 1080p resolution, a single HDMI jack, a remote… and that’s about it.
But where Roku Express wins is the price. At just $29.99, it’s the cheapest option out there (outside of no-name devices from China), and for the price, you also get a remote and an HDMI cable, so you’re ready to go pretty much as soon as you bring it home. It’s the perfect option for someone that’s just not sure whether she needs a media streaming device in their life, or as a secondary device for your bedroom.
Supported apps include the usual suspects: Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, and Google Play Movies & TV, among others.
If you want all the latest bells and whistles, such as 4K resolution and HDR support, you can also check Roku’s most powerful video streaming device, the Roku Ultra. You’ll have to dish out three times the money, as it costs $99, but it’s still a pretty fair price for what you get.
Unlike the other devices in this list, Minix doesn’t have a big brand behind it, but it does have a pretty big following. This is because its video streaming devices are actually much more than that — they’re pretty powerful little computers with impressive specs and a plethora of connectors.
The company’s U9-H came out in 2017, but it’s still one of the best options for media streaming in Minix’s range. It’s got an octa-core, 64-bit, AmLogic S912 processor, a Mali-820 MP3 GPU, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage. It’s also got a serious array of output connectors: HDMI 2.0, 3.5mm audio, optical audio, Gigabit Ethernet, and three USB 2.0 ports. Add to that a microSD card reader and you’ll see that adding some serious storage to this baby is no issue.
Its predecessor, Minix U1, had a pretty big software shortcoming, as it ran on now very dated Android 5 Lollipop. Minix U9-H remedied this by switching to the next version, Android 6 Marshmallow, which makes it a lot more future-proof.
If you opt for a Minix, know that setting things up isn’t as easy on most other streaming devices — for example, installing something as common as Netflix can be a chore. But if you know your way around Android, you should be fine.
The Minix Neo U9-H can be had on Amazon for $159.90.
Evanpo’s hexagonal box, the awkwardly named Evanpo T95Z Plus, probably offers the best bang for the buck in terms of sheer specs. It comes in several variants, and the most powerful one sports an octa-core processor (same one as the Minix U9-H), 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, Android 7.1, a remote, and a wireless keyboard — and you get all that for $104.99.
The T95Z Plus can play 4K videos at 60fps, which should result in a very smooth picture. It also has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, meaning you can connect all sorts of peripherals to it. And did we mention the wireless, full-sized keyboard? No more fidgeting five seconds per letter on a numerical keyboard.
On the connectivity side, you get two USB 2.0 ports, a HDMI port, optical port and a Gigabit Ethernet port.
The biggest downsides of Evanpo are that it’s a lesser-known brand and that sometimes, getting everything to work as you want might be a more complex than, say, plugging an Amazon stick into your TV. But you’ll be rewarded with a myriad options that very few devices on the market offer.
“The biggest question around MoviePass and its $10-per-month unlimited subscription has never been whether it’s a good deal. It’s whether—or how long—it can possibly last. But there’s another monthly moviegoing plan that has largely dodged those existential doubts. In fact, in some parts of the world, it even makes money. Imagine that.
That company is Sinemia, an awkwardly named subscription plan that launched in Istanbul in 2014, spread to the UK not long after, and touched down in the US just a few months ago. In broad strokes, it’s the same idea as MoviePass: Pay a monthly rate, get movie tickets. But the differences between the two matter, both for your own wallet and the future of moviegoing.
On the Cheap
MoviePass, as you likely know by now, lets you purchase one movie ticket, every day, for $10 per month. (It also now offers a plan with an iHeartRadio trial bundled in, but the action’s at the all-you-can-watch buffet.) For that same $10, Sinemia offers you … two movie tickets…”
“With so much controversy swirling around the advertising-driven business models typified by Facebook and Google, and the increasing rigors of regulations like GDPR, it’s no wonder the blockchain world is starting to whet its appetite at the prospect of paying users for attention with crypto assets.
Now a company involved in the production of Hollywood blockbusters featuring the likes of James Franco, Selena Gomez, Alec Baldwin, Heidi Klum and Al Pacino is backing a new startup to reward viewers in this manner.
Hollywood producer Andrea Iervolino (best known for backing the James Franco film “In Dubious Battle” based on the novel by the Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck) has decided to enter the fray by launching a new blockchain platform called TaTaTu. The startup’s aim is to bring a social, crypto economy to the entertainment industry.
Iervolino says the platform allows users to get rewarded for the content they watch and share with others through the use of crypto tokens. Of course, whether it can actually pull that off remains to be seen. Many other startups are trying to play in this space. But where Iervolino might just have an edge is in his Hollywood connections.
The idea is that the TaTaTu token can also be used by advertisers to run their ads on the platform. Organizations will also be able to earn tokens by uploading content to the platform. The more content an organization brings to the platform, the more revenue they earn. TaTaTu aims to show ads to viewers and will even share advertising revenues with them in return for their attention.
But it doesn’t stop there. Users are supposed to invite their friends via their social media to join TaTaTu, and then watch and create videos that can be shared with friends, chat with other members and share the content they like. TaTaTu will give its users the possibility to be rewarded for their social entertainment activity. TaTaTu plans not only movies and videos, but also music, sports and…”