HBO NOW Review 2020
Data effective 08/13/19. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
What is HBO NOW?
HBO NOW is HBO®’s streaming service for cable-cutters. Unlike HBO GO—which has a similar name and look—you don’t need a cable subscription to watch HBO shows online.
At $14.99 per month, HBO NOW costs about the same as a cable HBO subscription (though the traditional channel’s cost varies by TV provider).
But most importantly, you can be part of big premiers like Game of Thrones and Veep, and you can stream other HBO shows whenever you want.
- Equivalent pricing to HBO through cable subscription
- Big premier streams
- No contract
- Higher monthly price than Hulu or Netflix
- No offline viewing
- 24-hour delay for live shows
What you get with HBO NOW
HBO NOW collects decades of HBO’s original series—shows that redefined television. You can watch its exclusive archives as well as live premiers.
You’ll also find a rotating selection of movies, kids programming (like Sesame Street), stand-up comedy recordings, and thoughtful documentaries.
Most popular original shows:
- Game of Thrones
- The Sopranos
What you don’t get with HBO NOW
While HBO NOW uploads its big premiers for streaming, it doesn’t technically have livestreaming capabilities. Unfortunately, that means you can’t watch live TV, since those recordings haven’t been formatted for online viewing yet.
Instead, HBO NOW typically uploads live recordings within 24 hours of its cable TV premiers. You won’t get Last Week Tonight with John Oliver until the next morning.
There’s also a handful of HBO original series that haven’t made it onto HBO NOW. But over the past few years, some of its missing shows—like Mr. Show and Tenacious D—found their way to HBO NOW, so we’re still holding out hope for the rest.
Shows we wish were included:
- Tales from the Crypt
- The Corner
HBO NOW original series and movies
HBO NOW has over one hundred original HBO series, even more comedy specials, and over three hundred documentaries. If you’re not sure where to start, check out our recommendations below.
HBO NOW must-sees
|The Wire||Chris Rock: Bigger & Blacker||Leaving Neverland|
|The Sopranos||Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted||Beware the Slenderman|
|Game of Thrones||Dave Chappelle: Killin’ Them Softly||Being Serena|
|Veep||Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles||Mommy Dead and Dearest|
|Curb Your Enthusiasm||Paul F. Tompkins: Driven to Drink||Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief|
If you’re not ready to get sucked into one of HBO’s epic series, we get it—we’ve heard that some people have lives beyond their TV. (Not us.)
Fortunately, HBO NOW also holds appeal for people who want to use HBO NOW primarily as a movie streaming service. Its rotating lineup of movies brings in fresh new films every month and saves you from standing in line for your Redbox rental.
Upcoming in March 2020, you can expect new movies like Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, Yesterday, and a bunch of lackluster films to fill up the roster. But hey, Fight Club is making a triumphant return, so maybe you can watch that for the twentieth time.
HBO NOW payment options
You’ll enter your credit card information when you sign up, and HBO NOW will charge the card once a month on the anniversary of your signup. That $14.99 covers the cost of subscription for the following month.
If you don’t want to pay automatically, you can turn off Auto-Renew. After your current month is up, your subscription will end until you renew your payment manually.
HBO NOW specs and features
Here’s what to expect from HBO NOW’s streaming experience.
While HBO NOW comes with a number of streams, we don’t recommend sharing your HBO NOW subscription with every friend who wants to catch up on Game of Thrones—you’re risking identity theft on top of your to-watch list getting messed up.
Another problem is it can be hard to know how many simultaneous streams HBO NOW allows, since it dodges that question.
But at CableTV.com, we experimented with how many streams we could run at once. We were able to stream four shows on four different IP addresses, but during a later test we could only stream three.
So we can’t promise that you can stream that many—or that you can’t stream more. To quote one team member: “Maybe you can get away with four shows at once on a Monday at 3 p.m., but when it’s a Game of Thrones premiere, you only get one.”
But on most days, the kids can watch Land Before Time in one room while you check out Barry in another, and your significant other rewatches Six Feet Under for the third time to unwind during their business trip.
Still, it would be better to know for sure, instead of getting this great service with inconsistent features.
Playback features and commercial skipping on HBO NOW
Along with all the playback features that make streaming TV so great, HBO NOW offers a 10-second rewind skip. This is a great boon if your TV-watching buddy can never remember who’s related to who on Game of Thrones, and they regularly interrupt the show to ask.
But HBO NOW won’t interrupt your show—not even with commercials.
That said, at the beginning of most episodes, HBO NOW does promote its other shows in a 15- to 90-second clip. It doesn’t have a skip button for this, but you can fast-forward.
Be careful, though—if you overestimate how long the commercial will be, you could accidentally ruin a great cold open.
Also, HBO NOW, if you’re reading this: promote responsibly. We don’t need a commercial to see how funny 2 Dope Queens is during our 2 Dope Queens binge-watch.
Closed captioning on HBO NOW
The closed captioning service on HBO NOW is a real treat. It’s taken the feature beyond basic accessibility and into a customizable masterpiece, thanks to its variety of options:
- 7 fonts
- 5 font sizes
- 8 colors for font, background, and caption window
- 4 opacity levels for font, background, and caption window
Whether you want tiny captions that hardly disturb the eerie pastoral backgrounds of Sharp Objects or ones so enormous and bold you’ll never miss The Wire’s superb one-liners, HBO NOW has you covered.
Streaming quality and interface
The picture quality on HBO is fine, but not as striking as we’d like for its series’ beautiful visuals.
For example, the frame rate is slow enough that the fast-paced battles of Game of Thrones become choppy and blurry.
And HBO NOW automatically adjusts your streaming quality to fit your internet speeds. That’s great for avoiding buffering, but it would be better if it gave you the option to set the quality yourself. Sometimes it’s worth waiting to see everything in pristine condition.
Fuzzy dragons aren’t nearly as scary as crystal-clear ones.
The interface, on the other hand, is as flawless as Mahershala Ali’s haircut in the screenshot below.
The top image rotates through the hottest shows right now.
The home page is easy to maneuver and comes with show recommendations that are on point and unobtrusive. You can go straight to the latest shows, or dive deeper into one of HBO NOW’s categories:
The Collections section is especially helpful if you’re not sure what to watch next. It points you towards HBO’s essentials, new movies, last-chance-to-watch movies, and a handful of smaller collections things like “High-Octane Action Flicks” to spark your curiosity.
Now that’s an explosive combination.
HBO NOW app and device compatibility
In addition to using the HBO NOW website to stream on your computer, you can watch the HBO app on most streaming devices:
- Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Fire tablet
- Android phone, tablet, or TV
- Apple TV
- iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch
- PlayStation 4
- Samsung Smart TV
- Xbox One
However, in 2019, HBO NOW discontinued its app on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. If you need an excuse to upgrade your streaming equipment, HBO NOW might be the catalyst you’re looking for.
Promotions and deals
In the past, HBO NOW offered a student deal for $9.99 per month. Unfortunately, the deal is no longer available—but we’ll let you know if we see it come around again.
If you’re looking for other ways to get HBO, check out “What’s the Cheapest Way to Go for HBO?” We go into detail on how to get HBO for life with an AT&T Wireless plan and how much traditional TV providers charge for HBO subscriptions.
Our final take
HBO NOW gives you access to HBO’s premium shows any time you want—and it’s cheaper than an HBO subscription through most cable TV companies.
Moreover, we like the slick layout, viewing suggestions, and next-level closed captioning.
Still, we wish HBO NOW allowed you to set your video quality, instead of decreasing the quality to match low internet speeds. And it would be nice to watch Last Week Tonight when it comes out rather than the morning after.
But overall, HBO NOW is an excellent option for cord-cutters. Try it for Game of Thrones, and stay for decades of the best shows on TV.
HBO NOW FAQ
How does HBO NOW work?
Once you register an account with HBO NOW, you can download the HBO NOW app to watch HBO shows on your streaming devices. Or you can stream through your computer’s internet browser from the HBO NOW website.
What makes HBO NOW different from cable?
HBO NOW is delivered through your internet connection instead of a traditional TV connection. While you can’t watch what’s on TV, you can view any show on demand from HBO’s collection.
It also has no contract, so you’re free to unsubscribe whenever you like.
Is HBO NOW free?
No, HBO NOW costs $14.99 per month, but you can try it out for free with a seven-day trial.
Not sure your internet plan can handle streaming?
Can I watch HBO NOW on multiple devices simultaneously?
Yes, we were able to stream up to four shows at once on HBO NOW, but your luck may vary.
Can you watch HBO NOW offline?
No, HBO NOW doesn’t have any offline viewing capabilities. You’ll have to make sure you have internet access to watch the shows you want.
Are HBO NOW and HBO GO the same?
No. While both services help you stream HBO’s extensive library, HBO NOW and HBO GO have one big difference: you can sign up for HBO NOW directly, but HBO GO comes only through an HBO subscription with a seperate TV provider.
Either way, you’ll get the same excellent streaming content.
Is there an HBO NOW gift card?
Yes, you can pick up an HBO NOW gift card at retail locations like Walmart, Target, Best Buy, CVS Pharmacy, Rite Aid, or GameStop. Or you can send a digital gift card through eGifter.
How can you get HBO NOW?
Go to the HBO NOW website and start with a free seven-day trial. Try out the service, and if you’re a fan like we are, stick around for the monthly subscription.