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Apple Announces HBO Partnership, Cheaper Apple TV

Although Apple didn’t announce a new Apple TV at the “Spring Forward” event today, it did announce that the price of the third-generation Apple TV has dropped from $99 to $69. This brings the price of the Apple TV in line with the Roku ($49.99 to $79.99) and makes it cheaper than the $99 Fire TV (though the less capable Fire TV Stick is only $39). Google’s Chromecast is only $35.

However, Apple did update the third-generation Apple TV to version 7.1, with “general performance and stability improvements,” along with a few security fixes.

More notably, Apple thumbed its nose at cable and satellite providers with the announcement of an exclusive partnership with HBO, called HBO NOW. For $14.99 per month, anyone can access HBO’s extensive content archive. It will become available before the 12 April 2015 premiere of the fifth season of “Game of Thrones,” and customers who sign up in April will receive the first month for free.

HBO CEO Richard Plepler took the stage at today’s event to proclaim that HBO NOW subscribers will “have access to all our acclaimed original programming — past, present and future.” I wonder whether that will include older shows like “Mr. Show with Bob and David” and “Arliss” — two HBO originals that are unavailable on HBO’s existing HBO GO service. Regardless, HBO NOW is fantastic news for cord cutters.

I do wonder why Apple is dragging its feet on next-generation Apple TV hardware. I’d say that it’s a low priority, but Apple has sold 25 million Apple TV units so far, and that’s nothing to sneeze at, even for a firm that has sold 700 million iPhones.

My guess is that Apple is having difficulty negotiating with cable and satellite companies. As I said in “The Future of Apple TV” (21 February 2014), I see the Apple TV as a replacement for cable boxes, which would put Apple in a significantly different role. Apple’s unusually public announcement with HBO may be an attempt to weaken the TV providers’ positions.

Despite a lack of new hardware, the Apple TV’s lower price means that if you don’t already have one, now is a great time to jump in. While you’re at it, be sure to check out my still-current book, “Take Control of Apple TV,” the definitive guide to setting up and getting the most out of your Apple TV.

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