HBO without cable TV? Here's the secret

Want to cut the cord but don't want to miss out on 'Game of Thrones' or 'True Detective'? Some providers offer an Internet and HBO plan -- if you know how to ask.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 17, 2014 4:29PM
Matthew McConaughey, left, and Woody Harrelson from the HBO series 'True Detective' (c) AP Photo/HBO, Michele K. ShortBy Geoffrey A. Fowler, The Wall Street Journal

The Wall St. Journal on MSN MoneySo you're thinking about cutting the cord on cable TV, but worry you'll miss HBO? There's a way to get what you want.

HBO won't sell access to its online streaming service HBO Go directly to consumers. (ESPN, another often-cited reason for why people stick with cable, has the same policy.) To get a login, you must go to a cable TV company, which usually tries to upsell you on a pricey package that includes lots of channels you don't want.

Frustrated, some would-be customers just cut cable and "borrow" an HBO Go login from a friend. (An HBO spokesman says those logins are "limited to those residing in the home.")

But in recent months, many big cable companies have wised up that they might lose a slowly growing niche of cable-cutting customers. Several of them now will sell a package that include just Internet, HBO (and HBO Go) and the most basic of TV. You're not exactly without cable TV, but you're with much, much less of it.

It's like ordering off the secret menu at In-and-Out Burger -- you have to know what to ask for:

  • Comcast (CMCSA): "Internet Plus"
  • Time Warner Cable (TWC): "Starter TV+HBO and an Internet plan"
  • Verizon (VZ) FiOS: "50/25 Mbps + Local News and Sports + HBO (or Showtime)"
  • AT&T (T) U-Verse: "HBO Internet Plus"

I called up some of the biggest cable companies, and representatives from four of them talked about the packages they offer.

This worked for my family with Comcast. We called their hotline and said we wanted to "downgrade" service. After we said the magic words "Internet Plus," we were able to switch from a triple-play package costing $212 per month to "Internet plus" with broadband, about 10 cable channels and HBO (with HBO Go) for about $75 per month. Keep in mind, this eliminates landline phone service through the cable company.

A warning anytime you try to downgrade or cut off service: Cable companies sometimes can unfortunately make things confusing, or even confrontational, with their customers.

They could at any time change the names of these special options, or ditch them completely. Either move would be the wrong choice. If they do, or hassle you to keep higher-paying services, just keep saying: "I want Internet and HBO."

Let me know how it goes for you in the comments.

More from The Wall Street Journal

Jul 17, 2014 5:23PM
Out of my approximately 300+ channels; I actively watch about 20 of them.  If one cable company came along and allowed consumers to pick and choose what channels they wanted at a  certain price per channel,  I'd be willing to be that in no time, that cable company would be whuppin' everybody else's butt.
Jul 17, 2014 5:01PM
All cable and satellite companies should be investigated for fraud and price fixing.  There are organized efforts to go after "cable TV pirates," but little is done to protect consumers from the predations of these "providers."
Jul 17, 2014 7:33PM

Here in Central N.Y. you get Marvelous choices of cable providers.......

Time Warner..........or Time Warner............or Time Warner.........or even Time Warner.........

NOPE.......NO "Monopolies" here..............

I chose door #5......"No Cable" and my BIG MIDDLE FINGER to Time Warner & the FCC!!!!!!!!

Jul 17, 2014 7:49PM
I put up an antenna and get 46 free channels, I just pay for internet now. Couldn't care less about HBO.
Jul 17, 2014 5:35PM
I haven't had cable in years. The few TV shows I watch I can either watch online or wait until the DVD release.
Jul 17, 2014 6:19PM
Anyone see the Comcast story of the guy that spent half an hour on the phone trying to cancel his service?  That was messed up.  Just look up Comcast customer service call on youtube.
Jul 17, 2014 7:25PM
I think Cable companies steal money from their customers through fraud and deceit....can't prove it but believe it to be true.
Jul 17, 2014 10:32PM
How long would other cable companies last if one cable company allowed its customers to pick what channels they wanted and only pay for those channels ?  I get maybe 300 and watch about 20 at most.
Jul 17, 2014 5:38PM
It's about effing time! Comcast sucks! I would LOVE to dump them and just keep HBO for my Thones fix.
Jul 17, 2014 8:12PM
I use Roku only and maybe get Netflix for 3 months a year. There are plenty of cool channels to watch on Roku and I even get my local PBS news and live international News, I can stream live concerts. No bill!
Jul 17, 2014 6:08PM
In 2011, I finally got fed up of paying almost a $100 a month for junk and channels I never watched. Today I use XBMC, which is free! I installed it on a low cost PC ($200) running Ubuntu, but it also runs on Windows and Mac. I get thousands of free movies and TV shows, most in HD. The only downside is you still need high speed internet, and the only game in town is Comcast. Hopefully Google Fiber will come to our area. Anyway, except for the cost of my internet service, I have more options then I had when I had cable.
Jul 17, 2014 11:03PM
It is very disturbing that this industry still gets away with this type of monopolies.
Going to see what a decent antenna gives me near a major metropolis and then will only keep the internet.
Good going government on your ignorance with this business type and the monopoly debacle.
 Good freak in job **sholes!!.

Jul 17, 2014 9:03PM

Even better, dewed rinse cowboy,

TAKE AWAY THEIR MONOPOLIES. Let them compete, if they can, with everybody.

There is no such thing as a "needed" monopoly in this day and age. Anybody telling you different, has a vested interest in preserving the monopoly, or is just plain ignorant of economics. Same thing with the electric and gas companies. If they say that a monopoly is "needed" to "serve the consumer better, and keep prices low," then they're selling YOU a gold brick.

Jul 17, 2014 9:02PM
i think we should go back the way it was back in the 60's and 70's cut off cable tv buy antennaes hook them up and watch tv without paying out the rear.I am going to do it as soon as I get a digital converter..I refuse to pay taxes and taxes for nonsense..I get the channels i love anyway without why not..i lost my cable once and had only channels i watch still connected ..and they were free..Geezz why not i am going back to way it was ....too many reruns anyway ..
Jul 18, 2014 12:00AM
they will start charging more for streaming websites to compensate the for the loss when people cut the cord. internet "youtube, netflix, amazon, etc." packages will add up. forget it if you are streaming online games. they will get our money somehow. 
Jul 18, 2014 9:26AM
So if cable companies are allowed to only sell HBO and Internet, why can't they let us pick exactly the channels we want? People in other countries are allowed to do this. If I don't watch a lot of sports, why should I have to get ESPN? I don't speak Spanish, so why should I have to take Telemundo, etc.? I find it discriminatory that cable and satellite providers offer "Latina Packages", but do not offer any English only packages. 
Jul 18, 2014 9:49AM

my wife and I just moved a couple of months ago and when we left our old place we cut off Dish.  Can't have a satellite at our new place and Time Warner was our only TV option.  For "Standard" TV which was 200 channels and Internet it was going to be $175.00.  I do not like TW anyway plus of those 200 channels 25 are Spanish, 17 of them shopping channel and almost every HD channel ad a duplicate SD channel.  Of all of it there were probably maybe, just maybe 10-12 channels I ever watched but only li 5 or 6 regularly.  So I did some research, dusted off my Xbox 360, ordered AT&T High Speed for $35.00, downloaded Netflix and even Amazon Prime and bought a decent HD off air Antenna.  With the antenna I get like 25 channels and the series on Netflix are awesome plus I get to watch any favorite series a few days after the air on Network.  Then there is the library of movies, I used to have HBO and Showtime ad realized that a lot of the movies they were showing were just old movies ad I watched because I was paying for them. 


Now we pay just about $50.00 a month, I miss History Channel but not that much and I spend less time mindless staring at something I really do not want to watch but was all the Cable company had to offer.

Jul 17, 2014 8:23PM
I will continue to pirate and then purchase the dvd until HBO decides that they would like to actually make money and offer a subscription online. Cable is dead and companies need to move on and adapt. The fact that they don't and cry about pirating is sad. If they offered a Online subscription I would in a instant purchase it to watch GoT.
Jul 18, 2014 11:20AM
To me the whole thing is like dating. You find a real nice girl and you hit it off. The problem is she has 150 kids from 7 different men. If you take her in the kids come with. Now you may like some of them but, the chances of you liking all are slim. To me taking her in is not worth the extra junk. I guess there are a lot of men that would.
Jul 17, 2014 5:15PM
This is a lie by the way. I just talked to att about adding hbo to my internet only subscription. Unless, or course, if it only SOME att areas.
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