Sling TV gets HBO and service upgrades just in time for Game of Thrones

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UPDATE: The day after this article was originally published, on 4/8/15, Sling TV pushed its HBO option live early. HBO is now available to Sling TV subscribers.

Sling TV is taking steps to avoid a repeat of its March Madness woes when Game of Thrones arrives on HBO this Sunday.

Sling will start offering HBO on April 11, one day ahead of Game of Thrones’ series 5 premiere. It’ll be a $15 per month option on top of Sling’s basic $20 per month bundle, bringing the total price to $35 per month for 20 standard cable channels plus HBO.

Unlike the new HBO Now standalone service, which just debuted on Apple devices for $15 per month, HBO on Sling is not strictly an on-demand offering. It includes a live channel—just like you’d get from a cable or satellite TV provider—plus a library of on-demand content. There’s no access to HBO Go, a separate app for streaming HBO shows with a cable login, but Sling maintains this isn’t necessary because a full library of on-demand video is available through the main Sling TV app.

To coincide with the HBO launch, Sling is updating its apps with “enhancements to reduce overhead and load.” This should hopefully deal with the types of demand spikes that caused some viewers to miss out on portions of the NCAA Final Four.

The app update also includes parental controls across all channels—again, just in time for HBO’s hit series—and some channel guide changes that make it easier to search by genre on TV set-top boxes.

Why this matters: Before this week, the only way to get HBO without a pay TV subscription was to mooch someone else’s cable login. Cord cutters now have two legitimate alternatives: They can get a small bundle of channels with HBO through Sling TV, or get HBO by itself on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. Either way, it’s a significant step toward breaking down bloated cable TV bundles, giving people much more choice and flexibility than they had before.

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