Amazon and HBO have inked a deal to make a number of the premium channel's most popular series available to Amazon streaming customers - so will Game of Thrones now be available to watch online legally?.
HBO GO will also be added to the Amazon Fire TV set-top box this year.
Starting May 21, Amazon Prime customers will be able to access the full series runs of The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Big Love, Deadwood, Eastbound & Down, Family Tree, Enlightened, and Treme on Prime Instant Video, as well as early seasons of Boardwalk Empire and True Blood, and mini-series like Band of Brothers and John Adams.
You'll have to wait awhile for newer content, though. Previous seasons of shows like Girls, The Newsroom, and Veep will show up three years after airing on HBO.
Sadly, it looks like Game of Thrones fans will have to continue mooching off their friends' HBO GO subscriptions or pressing their luck with illegal streams and downloads.
The deal is significant, however, because it brings more current HBO content to a streaming platform for the first time. The Larry Sanders Show was on Netflix temporarily, while Tracey Takes On streams via Hulu, but neither show is on HBO GO. You can purchase episodes or seasons of HBO shows like The Sopranos on Amazon right now, but you can't stream them via Prime Instant Video, which provides unlimited access to certain shows as part of a yearly fee.
It's also a kick in the face to Netflix, which has thus far been unable to secure a streaming deal with HBO. Netflix raised the possibility of an HBO deal in 2012, but HBO said at the time that it was "not in discussions and have no plans to work with Netflix."
In a letter to shareholders released this week, meanwhile, Netflix said that "we continue to believe that our biggest long-term competitor for entertainment time remains the MVPDs [multichannel video programming distributors] improving through TV Everywhere, as they are doing with HBO GO."
HBO GO is currently only available to those with an HBO subscription through their video provider. During a February 2013 appearance at the ATD: Dive Into Mobile conference, HBO's (now former) COO Eric Kessler said it has not pursued a standalone HBO offering because its cable partners provide HBO with invaluable marketing and infrastructure support.
"It's really about economics," Kessler said at the time. There are approximately 101 million pay TV households in the U.S., and less than a third of those households are HBO subscribers, which Kessler said was a "tremendous opportunity" for growth.
The typical HBO customer, meanwhile, is a heavy TV watcher, and "we are targeting the people who are most likely to buy our product."
"Amazon has built a wonderful service; we are excited to have our programming made available to their vast customer base and believe the exposure will create new HBO subscribers," Charles Schreger, president of programming sales for HBO, said today.
Drumming up subscriptions (as well as keeping cable partners happy) is probably one reason why Amazon only has access to older content.
Meanwhile, those who do have an HBO subscription (or HBO GO login) will be able to watch all of HBO's content (movies, series, documentaries, comedy specials) on the Amazon Fire TV set-top box by year's end.