Good news for fans of HBO’s (s TWX) new fantasy series Game of Thrones: This weekend, subscribers to the premium cable network will be able to watch the seventh episode of the show a whole week early. The only catch is that they won’t be able to watch it on their TVs that early, but the show will be available on PCs and mobile apps on the iPad, iPhone (s AAPL) and Android (s GOOG) devices.
Following the regularly scheduled airing of the sixth episode of Game of Thrones this Sunday at 9:00 ET, the seventh episode of the series, entitled “You Win or You Die,” will go live on the network’s HBO Go online platform. In addition to the HBO Go website, subscribers can also tune in through the service’s recently released mobile apps.
The HBO Go service was launched last year to give subscribers access to on-demand episodes of its shows. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said on a recent earnings call that HBO Go is now available to more than 80 percent of its subscribers, but few actually know that they have access to the service. While the company announced that more than a million users have downloaded the iPad app, that’s still a fraction of the 30 million-plus subscribers that pay for the network.
According to HBO SVP of Corporate Affairs Jeff Cusson, the promotion is a part of HBO’s effort to increase the visibility and adoption of its HBO Go TV Everywhere service. “When you have a new platform like HBO Go, you want to present subscribers reasons to go there,” Cusson said in a phone interview.
With HBO Go, subscribers to the network are able to watch every episode of every HBO original series, but this is the first time the platform has made an episode that hasn’t yet aired available online. That said, this type of promotion isn’t unprecedented in terms of HBO pushing adoption of new services. Back when it was first pushing its video-on-demand service, HBO made episodes of ultra-popular cop drama The Wire available on cable VOD services a week prior to their live airing.
That said, HBO is treading carefully with releasing episodes of shows early. Due to the rabid nature of its fans for shows like True Blood or Game of Thrones, it doesn’t want to risk too many spoilers being released on social networks like Twitter before they go live.
The good news is that because HBO is subscriber-based, the network has the flexibility to make episodes available early on new platforms. Since it’s not reliant on viewers tuning in to the live airing of a show for advertising, it can use unaired episodes as a way to promote new services. “That’s beauty of HBO not being ad-supported. We’re happy to let viewers watch wherever they want,” Cusson said.