There’s no question HBO is serving up the best shows on TV right now. That may sound a little biased coming from a huge Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and Westworld fan, but chances are if you’re on this page, you like HBO too. And one of the most common questions about HBO, especially from cord-cutters, is “Can you get HBO GO without cable?”
The short answer is no. HBO GO is a service that’s totally contingent on you owning a cable subscription.
But here’s the good news: we’ve got alternatives that hook you up with the TV shows and movies HBO GO provides. There are lots of streaming services that offer HBO, and we’ll recommend the best options.
Here’s our ranking of the best ways to watch the equivalent of HBO GO without cable.
#1 HBO NOW: HBO GO vs. HBO NOW
What we like about it: Cheapest way to stream HBO online
Drawbacks: Exclusively HBO content
Who it’s perfect for: Fans of Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, High Maintenance and other HBO shows
HBO NOW exists as the alternative for cord-cutters who want to watch HBO online without a cable subscription. HBO is especially generous with its free trials, so take advantage of the month-long trial and watch HBO online for free.
Pricing and plans for HBO NOW
Let’s match up HBO GO vs. HBO NOW and see how the packages compare.
First of all, if you wanted to buy HBO GO, you would need to have a cable subscription first. As you probably already know, cable subscriptions are expensive, come with contracts, and can be pretty nasty. No thanks.
With HBO NOW, you pay exclusively for HBO content. The catch is you’ll be able to stream only HBO content—it’s not a full-fledged streaming service like our other recommendations, so you won’t get other channel options. If you’re the type of person who wants variety, HBO NOW may not be a perfect fit.
Since there are no contracts with HBO NOW, you could literally sign up, watch the new season of Game of Thrones, and then cancel your subscription. That kind of flexibility with your subscription is always a good thing.
To sign up for HBO NOW, it’ll cost you $15 a month after your free trial. As you can tell from the table above, that’s easily the cheapest price tag. It’s so cheap you could easily package HBO NOW with another streaming subscription and still pay less than you would for HBO GO and a cable subscription.
Watching HBO content with HBO NOW
We’ve tested out HBO NOW and are happy to report it’s an excellent service. The streaming quality, interface, and accessibility of HBO NOW certainly get our seal of approval. Even after binge-watching for several hours, the stream consistently stayed smooth as butter and looked amazing whether we were streaming on our phones, tablets, or through a streaming device on the TV.
You won’t find any negatives with the service itself. The only problem is that sometimes you want to watch something other than HBO shows. If you’re looking for ways to watch HBO online and livestream other channels as well, check out the alternatives below.
HBO NOW device compatibility
Download the HBO NOW app on basically any device. Seriously, HBO NOW does an amazing job making its app accessible.
#2 DIRECTV NOW: An Amazing deal for watching HBO content
What we like about it: Only $5 for HBO add-on
Drawbacks: No cloud DVR
Who it’s perfect for: Streamers who want HBO plus channel variety
We were pretty blown away when we learned DIRECTV NOW was offering its HBO add-on for only $5 with a subscription. You can watch HBO online for free with a DIRECTV NOW 7-day trial.
Pricing and plans for DIRECTV NOW
The best thing about DIRECTV NOW’s HBO deal is that it works with any channel package. We recommend going with DIRECTV NOW’s cheapest package, Live a Little, for $35 a month. With it, you get over 60 channels, including livestreaming essentials like ESPN, FX, and TNT. Tack on HBO for $5 a month, and you’re getting tons of streaming channels plus HBO for $40 a month. You won’t find a cheaper deal that includes both.
If you’re into prestige television, DIRECTV NOW offers similar deals to subscribers for Cinemax, SHOWTIME, and STARZ. Here are the specifics: you can add on Cinemax for $5 a month, SHOWTIME for $8 a month, and STARZ for $8 a month. Again, those are the cheapest prices you’ll find for those add-ons for any streaming service, so more points to DIRECTV NOW.
Watching HBO content with DIRECTV NOW
Just as a friendly reminder, HBO GO is available only with a cable subscription, but thankfully you can watch the same content with DIRECTV NOW’s HBO add-on.
Let’s talk streaming quality. DIRECTV offers a fairly consistent stream, though with a few quirks. If you stay on the same channel or watch HBO on-demand content, you shouldn’t run into any issues. However, if you’re channel surfing or switching between inputs too frequently, you may run into a few bugs.
For example, while we were trying to scroll through the channel guide to find what was on ESPN, the system bugged out and restarted itself. Granted, that happened only once, but it was annoying enough that we felt it was important to mention.
Yes, it’s true that DIRECTV NOW doesn’t offer cloud DVR with your subscription, but that shouldn’t be too big of a problem when it comes to watching HBO shows. Your HBO add-on comes with tons of on-demand content, which means you won’t need to worry about recording anything. If you miss last week’s episode of Game of Thrones for example, you can just watch it on demand.
DIRECTV NOW device compatibility
You can stream HBO with DIRECTV NOW on almost any device. Here’s a complete list.
#3 Sling TV: Cheap channels with HBO streaming
What we like about it: Cheapest streaming service around
Drawbacks: Not a huge channel count
Who it’s perfect for: Streamers who want basic channels along with their HBO streaming
Sling TV prides itself on offering the least expensive channel packages, but on the other hand, the channel count can feel lighter to match. Try out Sling TV and stream HBO content with a 7-day trial.
Prices and plans for Sling TV
Sling TV divides its channels between two packages: Sling Orange for $20 a month and Sling Blue for $25 a month. Subscribers can get the HBO add-on with either package for an additional $15 a month. So, it really just comes down to which channel package you prefer. Either way, Sling TV’s channel packages are the cheapest out there, so don’t feel too much pressure.
But if you are having a hard time deciding between Sling Orange and Sling Blue, we have some insider tips to help you out. Being pretty big sports fans, our favorite thing about Sling Orange is the inclusion of ESPN, but even if you’re not a sports fan, Sling Orange offers other great channels like AMC, HGTV, TNT, and 30 other channels. Sling Blue’s claim to fame is its inclusion of local channels like NBC, FOX, and CBS. Along with the local channels, you get FX, NFL Network, BBC, and 45 other channels.
Watching HBO on Sling TV
After testing out Sling TV for several hours, we’re happy to say the stream is strong with this one. Rarely did we experience an instance of a delayed stream or a fuzzy picture due to buffering. In fact, the HBO stream looked smoother than the other Sling TV channels. For whatever reason, add-ons seem to maintain a higher streaming quality, and HBO is no different.
From a features standpoint, Sling TV doesn’t offer anything for free. If you want to add cloud DVR, it’ll cost you an additional $5 a month. If you want to add simultaneous streams, it’ll cost you another $5 a month. We much prefer streaming services that give you extras in the cost of their subscriptions, but Sling TV’s price is too low to ignore. Just be careful not to get nickled and dimed to death, and you should enjoy yourself.
Sling TV device compatibility
You can stream HBO content on Sling TV with most devices.
#4 PlayStation Vue: Great deal for those willing to pay the price
What we like about it: HBO included with the Ultra package
Who it’s perfect for: Streamers looking for a very complete package
While scanning the table above, no doubt PlayStation Vue’s price felt like a big outlier. Hear us out—it’s actually a really great deal. And if you don’t believe us, you can always take advantage of the 5-day trial and watch HBO content for free online.
Pricing and plans for PlayStation Vue
Let’s get into the nitty gritty of the best deal to stream HBO online. So, PlayStation Vue offers four different channel packages, and the most expensive is the Ultra package, which costs $74.99 a month. So, why are we recommending the Ultra package over the other options? Subscribers get HBO and SHOWTIME included in their subscription. Along with getting HBO, you get over 90 other channels ready for livestreaming. If you consider that HBO and SHOWTIME add-ons usually go for around $15 each, you’re getting a nice value here.
So, yes, $74.99 a month sounds like a lot, but the value you’re getting for the price definitely makes it worth it—especially when you consider that PlayStation Vue offers unlimited cloud DVR storage and the best overall streaming quality.
Watching HBO with PlayStation Vue
We’ve tested basically every streaming service out there and can confirm PlayStation Vue’s streaming quality looks the best. Where other streaming services experienced occasional buffering or glitched-out menus, PlayStation Vue stayed strong. Also tack on an especially intuitive interface, and PlayStation Vue makes a very convincing case over the other streaming services.
Another thing PlayStation Vue has going for it is its unlimited cloud DVR. You may not think that’s a big deal because you’ll be watching HBO shows live or on demand, but trust us, cloud DVR will come in handy. Life can get busy, and it’s always a relief to know you can record your favorite shows and watch them later. There is a catch, however, with PlayStation Vue’s unlimited cloud DVR—your content deletes after 28 days of being recorded. Word to the wise—don’t be a DVR hoarder.
PlayStation Vue device compatibility
PlayStation Vue covers most of its streaming bases and even lets you stream HBO on your PlayStation console.
#5 Hulu with Live TV: An amazing amount of on-demand content
What we like about it: Tons of on-demand TV shows and movies to enjoy
Drawbacks: No channel upgrades
Who it’s perfect for: Binge-watching enthusiasts
If you’re the type of person who rarely watches live TV and prefers the occasional binge-watch, then Hulu with Live TV with the HBO add-on may be a great fit.
Pricing and plans for Hulu with Live TV
The grand total for Hulu Live TV and the HBO add-on will cost you $54.98 a month. That sounds like a lot, but Hulu with Live TV (which costs $39.99 alone), gets you over 45 channels, including ESPN, FX, TNT, as well as local channels. Not to mention the best part—Hulu’s entire streaming library is included in your subscription.That means you can seamlessly transition from binge-watching your favorite show to watching HBO live.
Now let’s talk about the HBO side of things. You’ll be paying $14.99 a month for your HBO access. That’s not a bad deal, but it’s not a great deal either, especially compared to what DIRECTV NOW and PlayStation Vue are offering. No doubt the selling point for Hulu with Live TV is all the on-demand content, so if that’s your bag, it should be a good fit.
Watching HBO with Hulu with Live
Hulu definitely has mastery of on-demand content, but the livestreaming appears to be a work in progress still. While we were testing Hulu Live, we experienced a few too many instances of buffering while watching HBO live. Granted, streaming services can be finicky, so your experience may differ from ours. While watching on-demand content, however, the streaming quality was the excellence we’ve come to expect from Hulu.
We have one more complaint about Hulu with Live TV—the interface is confusing. Good luck finding anything resembling a guide on Hulu Live, so channel surfers, definitely beware. Hulu’s interface is structured around knowing what you want to watch before you do, and it makes recommendations accordingly. The only problem is Hulu isn’t always good at knowing what you want to watch, and that’s when things get frustrating.
Hulu with Live TV device compatibility
You can stream Hulu Live TV with most streaming devices out there, except for video game consoles.
#6: Wildcard: Get HBO GO without cable from Amazon channels
Do people actually live their lives without Amazon Prime? We shudder at the thought. In case you’re not an Amazon Prime member, check out the perks:
- Thousands of TV shows and movies through Amazon Channels
- Free audiobooks through Audible
- Free two-day shipping on most Amazon orders
While Amazon Channels does not technically offer the HBO GO service, you can stream HBO content for $15 a month, just like with other streaming services. The library is the same; it’s just accessible through your Prime account. While Prime gives you a 30-day trial, Amazon Channels gives you only a free week, so we recommend synchronizing your free trials and seeing what you think of the HBO experience with Amazon.
You can learn more about Amazon Prime in our full Prime Video review.
#7: Wildcard: Borrow your friend’s HBO GO login
Remember the old saying, “Sharing is caring”? Well it’s true, so you should look into sharing passwords with a friend. You could even split a streaming service subscription with a friend to cut down on the cost. Or just find someone with a cable subscription, buy them lunch, and you could be streaming HBO GO in no time. HBO GO allows for three simultaneous streams at a time, so make sure not to exceed that limit.
Take your pick
We’ve laid out the options, and now it’s time for you to decide. Just to reiterate, you can’t watch HBO GO online without a cable subscription, but you can watch the same shows and movies you get from HBO GO without a cable subscription. All of the options above will hook you up with all the HBO you can handle.
Now let’s hear from you. Which streaming option did you go with? What has your experience been like so far? Do you have any Game of Thrones season theories you’d like to share? We always take your input into account, so please keep us updated.