HBO might not be available in New Zealand, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on its award-winning TV shows.
Thanks to hit shows like Game of Thrones and Westworld, HBO is widely regarded as the home of premium television, and despite its streaming service not being available Down Under, Kiwi fans can still binge on HBO content to their heart’s content.
Home Box Office (or HBO for short) is the original and longest running pay television service in the United States. From the 90s, HBO has consistently expanded into new markets around the world and now has over 130 million subscribers worldwide. The channel’s programming mainly consists of theatrically released movies and original television series, as well as the occasional concert special, documentary, made-for-TV flick, boxing match or stand-up comedy show.
What makes the channel stand out from the crowd, besides its quality content, is that HBO doesn’t carry traditional commercials. Instead, it runs promos for upcoming shows and movies as well as features offering a look behind-the-scenes, which are made to pique interest in its original programming. As a result, HBO can afford to broadcast more “grown-up” content that typically isn’t allowed to be shown on television: think profanity, explicit sex scenes and graphic violence. All the good stuff.
The channel’s original programming has earned countless major award nominations, including Emmys and Golden Globes. Despite The Larry Sanders Show being HBO’s flagship series in the 90s, The Sopranos is arguably the show that pushed HBO to the next level, earning both critical acclaim and a huge audience. Ever since, HBO has been known as the home of quality television. And thanks to hit shows like Game of Thrones, the channel is more relevant than ever, even in the current era of peak TV.
|Package||Monthly price||Channels included|
|Drama||$20/month||Showcase, BBC First, 13 Street, Binge, Boxsets|
HBO also offers streaming services in the US. HBO GO and HBO On Demand are free with a subscription through participating TV providers, while HBO Now is a standalone streaming service carrying HBO content. Those aren’t available in New Zealand either. However, Sky now has exclusive streaming and television rights to HBO in New Zealand.
|Package||Monthly price||Channels include|
|SKY Starter||$24.91/month||40+ channels, including Prime, Bravo, Food TV, Maori Television, 1,2, Three and MTV. You can then choose to add further packages|
|SKY Entertainment||$25/month||18 channels, including History, BBC UKTV, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel and Crime and Investigation|
|SKY Sport||$29.90/month||Enjoy sport from around the world, including ESPN and the Rugby channel|
|SKY Movies||$20.93/month||Watch films such as Pitch Perfect 3, Pacific Rim Uprising, The English Patient and Django Unchained|
|Soho 1 and 2||Free||Home to much of HBO’s content, you can enjoy these channels free when you sign up to SKY Starter, SKY Entertainment and SKY Sport and/or SKY Movies.|
How to stream HBO in New Zealand
HBO Now, HBO’s streaming service, gives users access to the channel’s entire library of content – which means unlimited access to every episode of the network’s original series, plus hit movies, sports, documentaries and comedy specials. The service launched back in 2015 in the US. Moreover, HBO continues to expand its streaming platforms in international markets under different brands – mainly HBO Go, but also, for example, HBO Nordic for countries in Northern Europe. In New Zealand, you can only watch HBO streamed content on Sky.
If you don’t subscribe to Sky, tech-savvy users may be able to get around it and access HBO Now by using a VPN service to bypass geo-blocking. However, HBO is known to kick out users who don’t reside in territories where streaming services are available, so there’s no guarantee it will work. Moreover, it is somewhere in that grey area between legal and illegal, so proceed at your own risk. HBO Now costs US$14.99/month and is available on a variety of devices – computers, phones and tablets, game consoles, Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, select smart TV models and Amazon Fire TV.
The safest and more accessible way to stream HBO content in New Zealand is to subscribe to Sky. As long as you purchase SKY Starter, SKY Entertainment and SKY Sport and/or SKY Movies, you have free access to Soho 1 and 2, and therefore to some of HBO’s extensive library of original shows, from Game of Thrones to Last Week Tonight. Alternatively, if you don’t want to subscribe to these packages, you can choose to pay NZD$9.99 for Soho, which is cheaper than US HBO Now. (You still have to pay for the starter pack.) Please note SKY requires 28 days’ notice to cancel your subscription.
SKY is only available to view through your TV, but it now offers the streaming service, SKY GO, which you can view on PC, Mac and select Apple and Android devices through the SKY GO App. See the SKY website for more information on the devices it supports. SKY GO can stream up to 26 live channels direct to your device. The channels you can access depends on your subscription.
Popular HBO content
Currently, Game of Thrones is undoubtedly HBO’s most significant hit. The final season of the series is in production and premieres in 2019, likely sometime in spring. The epic fantasy drama, based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels, has a huge fan base across the globe, and manages to remain appointment television in a time where streaming is king and watching on demand is the new black. “For the night is dark and full of spoilers.”
Besides Game of Thrones, HBO has produced a lot of acclaimed content over the years. Most popular titles include dramas The Sopranos, The Wire, Six Feet Under, Westworld, Big Little Lies and Deadwood. Meanwhile, on the comedy front, we find titles like Veep, Girls, Silicon Valley, Sex and the City and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Some of HBO’s shows are available to stream on demand with SKY, for example, Westworld, Silicon Valley, Insecure, Veep, The Deuce and Room 104. The list even includes Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the series that reshaped late-night TV and is scheduled to go on at least until 2020.
For 2018, HBO is making up for the fact that viewers won’t get their yearly dose of Game of Thrones with exciting new and returning originals. Barry is a new sitcom centring on a hitman who is contemplating an acting career. Fahrenheit 451, based on the classic novel of the same name, is about a young fireman in a country where books are banned, and firefighters burn any they see on sight. Starring Michael B. Jordan, the show is expected to premiere some time this year. Next, Sharp Objects, which is based on the popular book by Gillian Flynn, which stars Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson and Chris Messina. Amy Adams plays reporter Camille Preaker, who returns to her small hometown to investigate unsolved crimes, the first being the disappearance of two girls.
As for returning favourites, 2018 brought HBO fans new seasons of Silicon Valley, Westworld and Insecure. Hit shows True Detective, Veep and Big Little Lies continue, with new seasons likely to hit the air in 2019.
Frequently asked questions
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