Amazon signs HBO to exclusive deal to stream premium channel’s classic shows

April 23, 2014

Peter Larsen, Amazon.com's vice president of Kindle, talks about Amazon's Fire TV at the product's debut on April 2 in New York. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Amazon.com and HBO announced Wednesday that they've locked up a deal to put some of the premium cable channel's most iconic shows on Amazon's Prime Video service. The shows will start appearing on the service from May 21, the companies said in a release.

Before you get too excited, you should know HBO isn't giving away its whole catalog: It’s up to HBO to decide which shows will be available on Prime, and shows will only become part of the Prime trove three years after their initial airing.

So "Game of Thrones" fans, for example, won't have access to those early days when their favorite characters were single and alive as part of the deal announced Wednesday.

But the catalog of shows is still solid, with offerings such as the full runs of "The Sopranos," "The Wire" and even select seasons of newer shows such as "Boardwalk Empire" and "True Blood." Over time, early seasons of other shows such as "Girls," "The Newsroom" and "Veep" will make their way onto the service.

This is the first time that HBO has allowed its shows to be streamed to those who don't have a subscription -- or, at least, a subscriber's username and password.

The companies did not announce how much the deal was worth. Nor did they say how long consumers can count on getting HBO through Amazon Prime, saying only that this is a "multi-year" deal.

Still, it's a huge win for Amazon and its Prime service, which the company has been heavily investing in as it looks to take on Netflix and Hulu Plus. Amazon has made it a point to tout its exclusive deals -- the company recently got the streaming rights to "24" -- and even claims to have passed Hulu and Apple TV in streaming video usage.

Amazon also had to act quickly to justify that a Prime subscription -- which also includes free two-day shipping on many items --  is worth getting, after raising the price to $99 from $79 to offset rising shipping costs.

Here's the full list of shows available as part of the deal, according to the release:

  • All seasons of revered classics such as "The Sopranos," "The Wire," "Deadwood," "Rome" and "Six Feet Under," and of recent favorites such as "Eastbound & Down," "Enlightened" and "Flight of the Conchords."
  • Epic miniseries, including "Angels in America," "Band of Brothers," "John Adams," "The Pacific" and "Parade’s End"
  • Select seasons of current series such as "Boardwalk Empire," "Treme" and "True Blood"
  • Hit original movies like "Game Change," "Too Big To Fail" and "You Don’t Know Jack"
  • Pedigreed documentaries including the "Autopsy" and "Iceman" series, "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib" and "When the Levees Broke"
  • Hilarious original comedy specials from Lewis Black, Ellen DeGeneres, Louis CK and Bill Maher

The announcement also said that HBO Go, the network's app that lets subscribers watch current and past shows on multiple devices, will be coming to Amazon's new Fire TV set-top box by the end of the year.

Disclosure: Amazon.com chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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