Surprise! HBO has made on-demand streaming applications available on the iPad, iPhone and select Android devices, a few days ahead of their expected launch date. (Hat tip to BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield, who first spotted the iPad app.)
The HBO Go apps were teased in a YouTube ad released last week, promising a May 2 launch date. But they appeared a few days early, enabling subscribers to the premium cable network to access new release movies, as well as every episode from every season of every HBO original series on Apple iOS devices, as well as some Android phones.
The apps are an extension of HBO’s TV Everywhere initiative, which is designed to provide additional value to cable subscribers that pay for the premium network. The HBO Go online video service launched last February, and got a boost earlier this year, when the network drastically expanded the number of videos available online.
The iPad is fast becoming a new battleground for online and traditional video programmers and distributors. While online video services like Netflix and Hulu Plus have long had iPad apps, cable companies and their network partners are creating their own services for the device.
Comcast was first to market with an iPad app that allows its subscribers to access on-demand video from its network partners (including HBO). But recently, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision both rolled out controversial iPad apps of their own that make live streams of cable channels available for viewing within the home.
Some programmers, like Viacom, have complained that those distributors don’t have the rights necessary to stream to new devices like the iPad, and that such apps limit the possibilities for building their own apps or licensing their content to new online and mobile distributors. Meanwhile, some cable networks — like ESPN and now HBO — are taking matters into their own hands and rolling out authenticated apps for streaming live and on-demand video on new devices.