How to Watch HBO in the UK

Sky Atlantic the home of HBO in the UK

By Trixie Pacis | 17 Feb 2019 at 7:34pm

You may find yourself wondering how to watch HBO in the UK. After all, it has become a titan amongst TV networks thanks to its roster of massively successful shows such as The Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones, and Westworld. Not long ago, television was not considered space for telling long-running and fleshed out dramas. Nor was television home to big-budget content with high production values in comparison to the big screen. The landscape has changed vastly and HBO is partly responsible for the shift.

HBO’s very first hour-episode dramas was Oz, a prison drama that aired in the late 90s. The trend continued and the format was cemented by the success of The Sopranos, which premiered in 1999. The Jersey mob drama starring James Gandolfini proved that a long-form TV serial could draw an audience and remains one of the most acclaimed drama series of all time. Now, we find ourselves in the UK, full of cable and original programming that relies on the same formula of long-form storytelling and deep world-building—and many of the best still wear HBO’s shiny nametag.

HBO is quite possibly the United States’ most acclaimed cable network. Yet despite its massive success, it remains a little challenging to watch HBO programmes outside of the U.S. We hope that won’t be the case much longer but until things change (maybe one day HBO UK will launch as a channel? We can only hope!), here are your options though to watch HBO programmes in the UK, right now.

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HBO Now

HBO NOW in the UK

HBO does have its very own Netflix-esque streaming platform: HBO Now. It offers one-stop access to HBO’s entire back catalogue of content. While new shows don’t live stream on the service, most original programming is added within minutes of its TV broadcast starting time. This means you’ll be practically caught up on all your favourite shows. It also helps with avoiding pesky spoilers from across the pond.

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The big catch is that HBO Now is only available to users located in the U.S. The service employs geo-targeting to block users from outside the US entirely. If you try to sign up for HBO Now on their website, you’re likely to run into an error message. It is the result of your ISP (Internet Service Provider, e.g. Virgin, Sky etc) tagging you to a location outside the U.S.

Of course, there is a way to get around this hurdle: install a VPN. For as little as $3 a month, a VPN provides internet access through other countries’ servers. This effectively masks your IP address. By connecting to a U.S. server, you will technically be able to sign up for HBO Now’s $15 per month streaming service and watch HBO content on the web or through the app. This option presents great value for price. However, we have to warn that using a VPN violates HBO’s terms of service. HBO would be legally entitled to cancel your account if VPN use was detected. For this reason, we recommend two other ways to watch HBO in the UK.

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HBO Go

HBO Go Offline

A common point of confusion is that HBO operates two different streaming services: HBO Now and HBO Go. The programmes, features, and user interfaces are nearly identical. The key difference is how you access and pay for them. Unlike HBO Now, a standalone service that anyone can access for a monthly fee, existing HBO cable subscribers can watch HBO Go content for free.

In addition to bringing clarity, the reason we mention HBO Go is that it may be useful for U.S. cable subscribers travelling or living in the UK. If your U.S. cable subscription is active, you could theoretically watch HBO Go. But like accessing HBO Now, it involves using a VPN – however if you are already subscribing to HBO in the USA you may not want to waste your subscription whilst living or visiting the UK. To avoid using a VPN though you could download shows before leaving the USA as the HBO Go app does allow you to download shows for offline viewing.

Watch HBO Shows on Sky Atlantic

HBO Shows on Sky Alantic

You want to do things by the book. Or, the multiple steps required to sign up and watch HBO Now through a VPN may seem like a hassle. In either case, there is one more option available to everyone in the UK: Sky Atlantic. It is the most comprehensive option for keeping up-to-date with your HBO favourites.

HBO does not have cable channels in the UK. But luckily, the American network has a long-running partnership with European channel Sky. In a deal that currently runs through to 2020, Sky has secured exclusive access to air HBO’s shows in the UK. It has brought major HBO shows to Sky Atlantic including The Handmaid’s Tale, Westworld, and Big Little Lies. The long-awaited third season of True Detective premiered on January 13. Meanwhile, the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones will air on April 15. In addition to HBO content, you’ll also have access to certain programmes from other U.S. TV networks including Showtime and AMC. Another upside is that many episodes air at around the same time as their American counterparts.

This time, the catch is that you must be a Sky cable subscriber. This is due to the fact that you cannot access the Sky Atlantic package through another cable provider (see below for your other options). If you want to watch Sky Atlantic, it comes as part of the Sky Entertainment package (see current TV deals for Sky here). This is understandable, as the HBO deal in the UK with was designed to attract subscribers exclusively to Sky in the first place. Check out the Sky TV Guide to see what else is available.

Watch HBO Shows on NOW TV

HBO Shows on NOW TV

There is one cheaper alternative worth mentioning, and that’s the NOW TV Entertainment Pass. For £7.99 (usually, see current NOW TV deals here), you’ll have access to stream a variety of Sky channels and TV shows, among others. The platform is generally up-to-date with the latest programmes, but there is one big drawback. The service’s back catalogue of shows is ever-fluctuating as licensing deals change. This means that you might find every episode of The Sopranos ever one month and lose them all the next. When it comes to catching up on old series, NOW TV is more like a game of roulette—at least it keeps you on your toes.

Check out our NOW TV Guide for more details on all the passes available on NOW TV and what it has to offer.


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