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HBO Now vs. HBO Go: What's the difference?

Both streaming apps let you watch Game of Thrones as soon as it airs on HBO's channel. So which one's best for you?

A tale of two apps that get you exactly the same thing.

If you're a fan Game of Thrones -- or Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, True Detective, Westworld, Silicon Valley, The Sopranos, The Wire or Veep -- you have two major ways to stream episodes. Unfortunately they have confusingly similar names: HBO Go and HBO Now

Read now: Game of Thrones season 8: When it starts, schedule and how to stream HBO without cable

What are they, and what do they do? The short answer:

  • If you can watch HBO already via your cable, satellite or cord-cutter live TV subscription, you'll use the HBO Go app to stream those shows on other devices like your phone, tablet or another TV.
  • If you can't watch HBO already through an existing TV provider, you'll use the HBO Now app for streaming. 

Looking for more details? Here's the longer answer. (Disclosure: CNET may get a share of revenue from the purchase of services featured on this page.)

HBO Go: Free with HBO from a provider

HBO

Launched in 2010, HBO Go is a separate free app that's designed for cable, satellite and live TV streaming service subscribers who already get HBO's channel(s) as part a TV subscription. 

To use it you'll need to sign in to the app (or "authenticate") using the user name and password provided by your cable, satellite or live TV service. Access to the app is tied into your main TV subscription, so if your TV subscription doesn't include HBO, you can't use HBO Go.

HBO Now: $15 per month

HBO

Launched in 2015 as a standalone subscription independent of your cable or live TV streaming service, HBO Now costs $15 per month. To watch, you can sign in to the HBO Now app or go to hbonow.com.

A subscription to HBO Now works just like Netflix, Hulu or any other pay TV streaming service. You'll use a dedicated username and password, there's a free trial and you can cancel anytime (no contract).

Are there any other differences?

Not really. 

Both let you stream HBO's entire catalog of movies and shows, including episodes of most current shows (such as Game of Thrones) as soon as they air on HBO's channels. The exception is HBO reality series, which include 24/7, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Real Time with Bill Maher. Those episodes are typically available on both HBO Now and HBO Go within 24 hours of the original broadcast.

Both work with just about every kind of screen and device (see below) and both require a solid internet connection just like any other streaming video service. Both apps' layouts are the same on most platforms and the content is identical. 

Neither app lets you download shows to your device watch without an Internet connection, a feature offered by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Showtime, for example. (Editors' note: Showtime is owned by CBS, which also owns CNET.)

Video: Game of Thrones, season 8: Everything you need to know

Which platforms can I use them on?

While there is a full list here, most platforms have access to apps for both Now and Go. They include:

How else can I watch Game of Thrones season 8 without cable?

We've got a full list of choices right here. Enjoy.

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