HBO GO vs. HBO NOW: What's the Difference?

Satiate your need to watch HBO wherever you are

A woman uses HBO Now to watch Game of Thrones on her phone.

POJCHEEWIN YAPRASERT PHOTOGRAPHY/Moment/Getty Images

HBO is one of the original premium cable channels. In addition to a roster of movies that are updated regularly, HBO is also well known for highly rated television shows like Game of Thrones and Westworld.

If you want to watch these shows and movies away from your TV, you can stream HBO content on your computer, phone, or streaming device through either HBO NOW or HBO GO.

The Difference Between HBO NOW and HBO GO

HBO NOW and HBO GO are extremely similar services from HBO, but there is one important difference: HBO GO is for HBO subscribers, and HBO NOW is for everyone else.

HBO NOW and HBO GO apps side by side.

The only way to get HBO GO is to have an HBO subscription through a cable or satellite television provider. If you do have a subscription, then you can automatically gain access to HBO GO on your computer and a wide variety of other devices. If you don't have a subscription, then there is no way to get HBO GO.

HBO NOW is functionally identical to HBO GO, but it's available to everyone. For a monthly subscription fee, HBO NOW allows you to stream all of the same content that HBO subscribers are able to watch through HBO GO. That includes all of the movies and original television shows that HBO is so well known for.

HBO NOW and HBO GO For Cord Cutters

HBO NOW is a great service for cord cutters, but HBO GO isn't. The reason that HBO GO isn't useful for cord cutters is that you literally need a cable or satellite subscription, and an HBO subscription on top of that, to access HBO GO.

One of the biggest problems for cord cutters is that there are so many services, including cable replacements like Sling TV and general streaming services like Netflix, that it's pretty easy to end up paying as much, or even more, for streaming services than you would for cable.

Since HBO NOW only provides access to HBO content, it falls into a category that's somewhat similar to streaming services like CBS All Access. Subscribing to these single channel streaming services can get very expensive, but if you're really interested in the shows and movies HBO NOW has to offer, then it's still worth it.

How Do HBO NOW and HBO GO Work?

HBO NOW and HBO GO have different signup procedures, but the two services are functionally identical once you have access. The websites are exactly the same, aside from the logo, and the apps are also the same.

A screenshot of HBO NOW.

The way HBO NOW and HBO GO work is that they allow you to stream both movies and television shows from HBO. You gain access to HBO's entire library of original content, in addition to the entire slate of movies that the channel currently has the rights to broadcast.

Since HBO NOW and HBO GO are streaming services, you stream TV shows and movies over the internet. That means you need a device, like a computer, phone, game console, or television streaming device, and a high speed internet connection.

How to Get HBO NOW

HBO NOW is HBO's streaming service that's available to everyone. You don't need a preexisting cable or HBO subscription to access it, which makes it the best choice for cord cutters who no longer subscribe to cable or satellite television.

The one caveat is that you can't sign up for HBO NOW using a computer. The only way to sign up is to download the HBO NOW app, and use that to create an account and activate your free trial.

Once you've created your account, you can watch HBO NOW in your web browser, on your phone, or on your television with a streaming device.

Here's where to get the HBO NOW app:

Once you have the app installed, here's how to get started with HBO NOW.

  1. Launch the HBO NOW app on your phone or streaming device, and tap the menu icon (three vertical lines.)

    A screenshot of HBO NOW on a phone.

    You can't sign up for HBO NOW through the HBO NOW website. The only way to sign up is through a phone or streaming device.

  2. Tap Start Your Free Trial.

    A screenshot showing how to sign up for HBO NOW.
  3. Tap Start Your Free Trial again.

    A screenshot of the HBO NOW sign up process.
  4. Fill out the required fields, select the box that indicates you have read and agreed to the terms of service, and tap Create Account.

    A screenshot of the HBO NOW sign up process.
  5. If prompted, tap SUBSCRIBE.

    A screenshot of the HBO NOW sign up process.

    If you don't cancel during the free trial period, HBO NOW will charge the billing method you choose during this step when the trial ends.

  6. Once you've completed this sign up process on your phone or streaming device, you can use the same account on the HBO NOW website and the HBO NOW app on other devices.

How to Get HBO GO

HBO GO is HBO's streaming service for current subscribers. It's only available to people who subscribe to HBO, so it's the best choice if you either have a traditional HBO subscription or would like one.

If you do have an HBO subscription, then HBO GO is totally free. If you don't have an HBO subscription, then HBO GO isn't an option.

Here's where to get the HBO GO app:

In addition to the HBO GO app, you can also set up and use HBO GO with a web browser. Here's how to get started with HBO GO using a web browser:

  1. Navigate to hbogo.com, and click SIGN IN.

    A screenshot of HBO Go.

    There is no option to sign up, because HBO GO is only available to current HBO subscribers. If you don't have an HBO subscription, you can contact your television provider to subscribe, or use HBO NOW instead.

  2. Select your television provider.

    A screenshot of the HBO GO sign in process.
  3. If prompted, enter your login information for your television provider.

    A screenshot of the HBO GO sign in process.

    This step may be automated if your television provider and cable provider are the same company.

  4. Return to hbogo.com, and verify that your television provider is now indicated by a logo in the top right corner of the screen. If it is, you're ready to start watching.

    A screenshot showing HBO GO ready to watch.
  5. Repeat this process on each device, like phones and television streaming devices, that you want to use with HBO GO.

How to Use HBO NOW and HBO GO

Once you have completed the sign up process, HBO NOW and HBO GO are essentially two different names for the same service. They use different websites and different apps, but the websites and apps look and function the same. If you're familiar with one, you'll be able to use the other without any problems.

Here's how to use HBO NOW or HBO GO to watch a TV show or movie:

  1. Navigate to hbogo.com or hbonow.com.

    A screenshot of HBO NOW.
  2. Locate a show or movie you want to watch, and click or tap it.

    A screenshot of HBO NOW.
  3. Click the play button.

    A screenshot of HBO NOW.

    Clicking ADD will place the show or movie in you watchlist, which makes it easier to find in the future.

  4. If prompted, click to enable Adobe Flash, and then click Allow.

How to Use the HBO GO and HBO NOW Watchlist

HBO GO and HBO NOW don't include a lot of advanced features that other streaming services have, like live television or cloud digital video recorder (DVR), but there is a watchlist. This feature allows you to save movies and TV shows to a convenient list, which you can use to quickly access your favorites without combing through the list of shows and movies every time.

Here's how to use the watchlist on HBO NOW and HBO GO.

  1. Navigate to hbogo.com or hbonow.com.

    A screenshot of HBO NOW.
  2. Click WATCHLIST.

    A screenshot of HBO NOW.
  3. Click the play button on any show or movie in the list to watch it.

    A screenshot of the HBO NOW watchlist.
  4. Shows and movies will remain conveniently in your watchlist, which can help you remember where you left off. If you don't want a show or movie to be in your watchlist anymore, just click remove.

What's Included With HBO Now Vs. HBO GO?

HBO NOW and HBO GO include the exact same content. That includes all of HBO's original shows, from Carnivale and Deadwood to Game of Thrones and Westworld. It also includes all of the movies that HBO currently has the rights to broadcast and stream.

Neither HBO NOW or HBO GO include a live feed of the HBO channel. Most shows do become available to stream on the service around the time they are broadcast on the HBO channel, but there is no option to watch a live stream of the channel itself.

If you want access to a live stream of HBO, you can get it through services like Amazon Channels and Hulu.

Can You Rent Movies From HBO NOW or HBO GO?

Unlike some streaming services, HBO NOW and HBO GO don't provide the option to rent movies. However, you do gain access to some newer movies that aren't available on other streaming sites. HBO GO and HBO NOW sometimes even have movies for free that you would have to pay for elsewhere.

A screenshot of movies on HBO NOW.

HBO adds new movies, and rotates older movies out, every week throughout the year. In addition to recently released movies that aren't available on other streaming services, HBO also regularly includes older classic movies in the rotation. For more information about movie availability, check out HBO's list of new releases.