With high-quality programmes like Game of Thrones, Westworld, The Sopranos and The Wire, HBO is the leading television producer in the US. Here’s how you can watch HBO shows in the UK.
Many media critics claim we’re living in the golden age of television. Although most TV channels and streaming services now produce at least one or two prestige programmes, there’s one channel that stands heads and shoulders above the rest: HBO.
In the early 2000s, when many TV channels were just getting into reality TV and moving away from scripted series, HBO started leading the shift toward higher-quality TV programmes with series that are still widely regarded as some of the best television programmes of all time. The Wire, The Sopranos and Six Feet Under routinely crop up in critics’ lists and are still deemed to be ‘must see’ TV a decade after their original air dates.
In recent years, HBO has continued to step up their programming with a range of comedy, drama and fantasy series starring A-list celebrities and backed by award-winning directors, producers and writers. The channel sweeps most awards ceremonies and has elevated TV across the board, so it’s no wonder that people from all over the world want to view HBO’s programming — or that its series are among the most-pirated.
Here’s how you can legally watch HBO series in the UK.
Watch current HBO programmes on Sky Atlantic
Sky and HBO have a deal that gives Sky exclusive rights to broadcast first-run and currently-airing HBO programmes in the UK and other European markets through 2020. Some series are even aired live at the same time as they are in the US, so you can watch Game of Thrones at 2am and not risk spoilers from American media on your Monday morning commute.
Aside from programmes produced by Vice — which air on Sky’s new Viceland channel — these series are broadcast on Sky Atlantic. Currently, 40% of Sky Atlantic’s programming comes from HBO series.
The channel also shows other prestige series from the States, including the upcoming Twin Peaks revival and The Affair from Showtime. Previous programmes included AMC’s Mad Men and Syfy’s Battlestar Galactica as well.
Additionally, Sky Atlantic produces its own original programming in partnership with some US channels, including The Young Pope with HBO and Guerrilla with Showtime. Sky and HBO have also recently announced a new partnership to greenlight even more high-quality television programming, so this pair isn't splitting up any time soon.
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How can I watch Sky Atlantic?
Because Sky Atlantic offers such in-demand programming, Sky heavily limits its availability.
Unlike Sky Sports and Sky Cinema channels, Sky Atlantic can’t be added to packages with other TV providers. To get Sky Atlantic, you have to be a Sky subscriber, either to Sky itself or its streaming service, NOW TV.
If you’re interested in Sky programming across the board — including its sports and cinema channels — and want long-term access to Sky Atlantic, it may make sense to subscribe to Sky, especially if you’re unhappy with your current TV providers.
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On the other hand, if you’re only after one or two HBO shows or aren’t interested in a TV subscription, NOW TV is a great option to get quick access to Sky Atlantic.
NOW TV is a streaming service that offers monthly passes on a contract-free, pay-as-you-go basis. So if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, for example, and are only interested in that programme, you can get an Entertainment Pass for the premiere date, then unsubscribe once the series is over — and reactivate in time for the new series.
The NOW TV Entertainment Pass gives you access to 13 channels, including several from Sky:
- Sky 1
- Sky Living
- Sky Atlantic
- Comedy Central
- Sky Arts
- ITV Encore
- Nat Geo Wild
- abc studios
Once you sign up for the NOW TV pass, download the app to almost any device — most models of tablets, smartphones, games consoles, set-top boxes and smart TVs are supported — or access the site from a web browser on your laptop and start streaming.
You should be able to access on-demand content or live TV channels, although the latter isn’t supported on YouView boxes.
Want to watch on the big screen? Find out how to watch NOW TV on your TV.
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How to watch older HBO programmes and miniseries in the UK
Although Sky holds the rights to the first run of currently-airing programmes, older shows end up on other channels and services, and current series box sets are able to buy from other providers shortly after their initial run.
In the past, for example, the BBC has previously aired The Wire and Six Feet Under after their Sky Atlantic runs. Other HBO box sets are available to purchase and download from the TalkTalk TV store and BT TV store. In fact, TalkTalk usually gets HBO series the day after the finale airs on Sky Atlantic.
Just as Sky partners with HBO to produce original series, HBO occasionally teams up with other UK TV channels to produce TV programmes and miniseries, most notably the BBC.
Together, the two broadcasters have jointly-produced such hits as The Casual Vacancy, Parade’s End and Rome. These programmes therefore air on the BBC, not Sky Atlantic.
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