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HBO Now launches on Apple TV, Cablevision ahead of 'Game of Thrones'

Premium cable channel launches its direct-to-consumer streaming option for $15 a month before Sunday's season premiere of "Game of Thrones," but you need to be an Apple or Cablevision customer to get it.

HBO's purely online service, HBO Now, is available to Apple device owners and people who sign up through cable company Cablevision. Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple TV and Cablevision customers are now able to follow the adventures of Khaleesi, Tyrion and the rest of the "Game of Thrones" crew without the aid of a cable subscription.

HBO's online-only streaming service, HBO Now, went live on Apple TV and Apple iOS devices on Tuesday. HBO Now is also now available on Cablevision through the cable provider's Optimum Online Internet service. The price to subscribe is $14.99 a month, though people who sign up this month get a free 30-day trial.

It comes a month after electronics giant Apple unveiled a deal to launch HBO Now exclusively through its Apple TV streaming box, iPad tablet and iPhone. As consumer viewing habits are shifting to mobile devices and online options, networks like HBO and pay-TV providers like Cablevision are experimenting with Internet-based television services despite how these offerings could undermine their core business of pay-TV subscriptions.

Apple's deal was an exclusive among "new digital distributors," meaning rival devices designed to watch Internet video on their televisions -- like Roku, Google's Chromecast and Microsoft's Xbox -- can't offer the new service for three months. Though the three-month window is relatively short, it encompasses the entire new season of "Game of Thrones," HBO's highly watched fantasy series, which starts Sunday.

Cablevision is the first pay-TV provider to offer the premium network's new streaming service, even though it creates a route for its video service customers to become "cord cutters" -- people who forsake cable or satellite TV service in favor of purely online television viewing.

Cablevision serves about 3 million total customers in the greater New York metropolitan area, including 2.8 million Optimum Online broadband customers. By comparison, Comcast -- the biggest cable company in the US -- has 22.4 million video service customers and 22 million broadband customers.

Apple cut the price of its Apple TV to $69 from $99 in March as it unveiled the deal to launch HBO Now. Apple TV is the most-purchased device of its kind worldwide thanks to Apple's unparalleled market reach and influence, though the product has gone without a fundamental refresh in more than two years.

Last month, the companies said HBO Now launch would come before April 12's premiere of "Game of Thrones" fifth season, without specifying the exact date.