At the Spring Forward event, Apple and HBO announced HBO Now, an over-the-top unbundled streaming service for HBO shows, like Game of Thrones, independent of a cable subscription. They claimed that HBO Now would be ‘exclusive to Apple TV and iOS devices for three months’. This seemed like a great promotion for Apple’s television offerings, coinciding with a price cut of the Apple TV box to $69.
However, Sling TV has now announced that it will be offering the same deal through its service: HBO shows for $15 a month. This throws shade at Apple’s announcement — signing up for Sling TV will make HBO available on devices like the Roku this month. It is worth noting that the Sling deal also requires a subscription to Sling itself, HBO is only available as an add-on, which is an additional $20 a month.
Sling has found a ‘loophole’ in Apple’s deal so that it can offer cable-independent HBO content this month as well, sidelining Apple’s three month exclusivity window …
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Contractually, Sling isn’t offering HBO Now … but effectively the service is identical offering the same shows. According to Bloomberg, pay-TV companies are exempt from the exclusivity clause and as Sling is owned by Dish, the arrangement does not conflict with HBO’s deal with Apple.
Apple’s exclusivity deal was never permanent, it was expiring in three months. It is somewhat embarrassing, however, for Apple TV that the deal is not as watertight as it first appeared, especially considering Apple opened its March event with this announcement.