Apple has successfully negotiated a three-month exclusivity deal with HBO to limit HBO Now to cord cutters who don't have the Apple TV, but there is a way to get around that for the time being.
CNET has discovered a new streaming service that delivers all HBO Now shows to a wide variety of streaming devices, including the Roku, Chromecast, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and smartphones running on Android, BlackBerry OS, and Windows Phone 8. This new service is called PlayOn, and customers who don't have an Apple TV but still want to get all the latest episodes of "Game of Thrones" while they are hot can subscribe to PlayOn and stream the TV shows to whatever device they have.
PlayOn streams content from a wide variety of providers, including Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and of course, HBO Now. To stream content from HBO Now, customers have to purchase a PlayOn subscription, which costs $19.99 for a year or $39.99 for a lifetime. They can also get the lifetime subscription bundled with PlayLater, which is similar to a DVR that can record TV shows for viewing later, for $49.99.
A cheaper option, however, is to get the $9.99 promo offered by PlayOn that combines unlimited streaming and PlayLater for three months, just the right amount of time for the Apple-HBO partnership to end and possibly move on to more viable and less complicated means of streaming HBO Now.
After that, users will need to sign up for an HBO Now account. For that, they'll need to have an Apple device. However, if they don't have one, there are a few options. First, they can borrow a friend's iPhone or iPad and sign up for the one-month free trial through that device, if it isn't too much of a hassle for that friend. Or, if they're only looking to test the waters, they can borrow a friend's HBO Now login information to sign in to HBO Now. The network's policies seem lax on login sharing and allows a single user to activate HBO Now on several devices, although only three streams per account are allowed at any time, and users who are sharing too much might have to face HBO's "other tools of enforcement."
On PlayOn's settings, users can go to Channels and activate HBO Now with their or their friend's login credentials. Once that's done, they will have to add the PlayOn channel to their Roku, Chromecast, or other streaming device. PlayOn has separate instructions on how to add the PlayOn channel to the many devices it supports.
It's important to note that PlayOn may not be the ultimate solution to the problems brought about by exclusive streaming partnerships, but it might be a temporary solution. A few users who claim to have PlayOn subscriptions complain that the service fails to deliver high-quality streaming, with many videos featuring more buffering than actual content. However, PlayOn's customer support team claims that laggy streaming is more the result of high CPU usage than slow servers on their end.