Three months ago, HBO made its programming available to consumers without a cable subscription, selling a streaming service called HBO Now on Apple devices. Today the exclusivity with Apple expired, rolling out to anyone with an Android phone or tablet or an Amazon Fire tablet. The price remains the same, at $14.99 a month, and HBO says users should expect it to soon be available across all the devices you can use for HBO Go, including Google's Chromecast and Amazon's Fire TV.
The streaming-only service appears to be off to a very strong start. While HBO won't share any details on the number of people who signed up for Now, we can make an educated guess based on data from the app store. The service became the highest-grossing app on iPad and the second-highest-grossing app on iPhone just one month after its release. Magid Associates' Tero Kuittinen estimates that would put its monthly revenues somewhere between $30 and $50 million, north of 2 million subscribers.
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BTIG Analyst Rich Greenfield estimates the number a little lower, pegging the subscriber count somewhere between 850,000 and a little over 1 million. The major caveat in any calculation, of course, is that there is little transparency for subscriptions made through the Apple TV or Cablevision, which probably account for a sizable percentage of subscribers, given most people prefer to watch HBO on their big screen.
The debate in the industry was whether or not subscribers to HBO Now represented a new opportunity — people who live in broadband-only households and didn't have an HBO subscription through cable — or whether people would cut the cord and exchange their pricey cable bill for a selection of cheaper streaming offerings. "The big question with HBO Now was, is this going to cannibalize our existing subscriber base in any way?" says Bernadette Aulestia, who is spearheading digital distribution efforts. "There’s nothing better than, three months later, having data and being able to say less than 1 percent of people cut the cord and went streaming only."