It's finally happening! HBO has announced that they plan to offer a stand-alone HBO streaming service in the United States next year. The cable channel made the announcement today at the Time Warner Inc. Investor Meeting, following a presentation focused on their domestic business. As CEO Richard Plepler put it:
“So, in 2015, we will launch a stand-alone, over-the-top, HBO service in the United States. We will work with our current partners. And, we will explore models with new partners. All in, there are 80 million homes that do not have HBO and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them.”

This is something that many people have wanted for a long time. At present, in order to subscribe to HBO in the United States, a pricy cable or satellite package is required, as HBO is typically offered as an add-on. So if you're using Time Warner, Verizon, DirecTV or one of the other major services, chances are, you need to have one of their big channel packages in order to add HBO on. And then the premium channel can cost $15-$20 a month, on top of whatever you're paying for cable. Where does that leave people who don't want dozens or hundreds of other channels and just want to watch Game of Thrones? Hoping for an option that allows them to pay for what they want and skip the rest, that's where.

It's not as if HBO's costliness is new, but with Netflix raising the bar by delivering quality streaming entertainment and original scripted programming at a low monthly cost that doesn't require any kind of cable package -- beyond an internet connection, anyway -- the demand for more accessible, affordable HBO is likely on the rise. That, and HBO Go has proven to be a pretty fantastic service, offering a solid catalog of streaming films and hours and hours of content from HBO's vast and growing library of original series.

HBO doesn't give an exact date for when their "stand-alone, over-the-top" service will be available, but if all goes as planned, it sounds like it's coming next year. Beyond that, we're left to wonder if this service will be the same as HBO Go, or if it'll be something different. It may depend on what kind of price model they're looking at. Will they aim to compete with Netflix and keep the cost somewhere in the vicinity of $10/month? Or will they shoot for something closer to what they're charging their subscribers? As a cable subscriber who isn't quite ready to cut the cord yet, I'd still be happy to drop HBO from my plan if this streaming service cost less, even if it meant I had to wait an hour or two for new episodes to be available streaming.

We'll have to wait and see what other details emerge (and whether or not there are any plans brewing for other premium cable channels -- Starz, Showtime? -- to do something similar). In the meantime, for those who've been looking forward to a simpler way to get their HBO, this news is cause to celebrate.

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