Amazon Prime Users Get HBO Content — With a Catch

HBO hits including The Wire and The Sopranos will be available to Amazon Prime subscribers starting next month. Unfortunately, Prime customers have to wait as long as three years for access to newer shows.

Amazon and HBO both received a lot of attention this week. The giant Web store and the high-end cable network struck a deal that will allow Amazon Prime customers to stream some of HBO’s content.

It’s important to note the word "some." Older series, including The Sopranos and The Wire, will be available to Prime subscribers starting on May 21, along with the first few seasons of Boardwalk Empire and True Blood. Current hits, such as Game of Thrones, won’t be available until three years after they were first shown on HBO.

If you’re going to measure the value of a streaming video service by the amount of available content, Amazon Prime still lags behind Netflix. Still, there’s a lot to like in this news, and people who are trying to ditch their cable or satellite service may find new incentive to check out Prime. (Amazon’s related press release gives you a full list of HBO content that will be available.)

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You can already download every episode of The Sopranos and Deadwood, for example, on iTunes and Amazon. But you’ve got to buy them, either by the episode, which gets expensive pretty quickly, or by the season. A full season of The Sopranos costs about $30, so if you buy just the first three seasons you'll spend almost as much as you would for a full year of Amazon Prime, which costs $99 a year.

The HBO content will be available to all Prime subscribers, whether or not they buy Amazon’s new Fire TV. Subscribers will be able to watch it on any compatible device. One good feature of Amazon Prime’s video service is the ability to download certain movies and shows to watch later, even if you don't have access to Wi-Fi.

Fire TV owners will be able to download an HBO Go app later this year. HBO Go gives you access to all of HBO’s content — but you have to be a subscriber.

Amazon’s deal will put pressure on other streaming services to offer more content and maybe cut prices. Cutting the cable cord just got more attractive.

Image: HBO

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