NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- By adding Time Warner's (TWX) HBO Now to its already packed roster of streaming video offerings, Apple (AAPL) just made it a lot easier for pay-TV subscribers to cut the cord on the traditional 150-plus channel bundle.
Cord-cutting remains the dream of many consumers of entertainment and news who watch only a handful of the channels bundled together at the behest of the duopolies that sell pay TV. That monthly bills can run as high as $200 only fuels consumer desire for alternatives.
HBO's decision to offer the most watched premium channel as a standalone service that doesn't require a pay-TV subscription could bolster cord-cutting.
"All of it is preparing for that day when you truly can cut the TV cord and get everything through a digital provider," said James McQuivey, a principal analyst with Forrester Research. "They want to be in position with their boxes, their customer relationships, and their software ready to go."
And in cutting the price of the Apple TV to $69 from $99 and securing an exclusive deal for Time Warner's new HBO Now service, Apple CEO Tim Cook appears ready to double down on the company's efforts to make Apple TV the device of choice for consumers who want to use their televisions to gain access to a fast expanding number of online video offerings.
If Apple makes it easier to effortlessly put together the "broadband bundle," consumers are more likely to end their pay-TV contracts. In truth, the number of consumers who have cut the cord remains small. The traditional pay-TV bundle has proven to be resilient.
The HBO Now option, which goes live in April, will cost subscribers $14.99 month. But for the first three months of its operation, HBO Now will be available only via Apple TV, which could give Apple a boost against competitive offerings from the likes of Roku, Amazon (AMZN) and Google (GOOG).
"This HBO deal is a first for this type of platform, and it should also help sell more Apple TVs," said Tim Bajarin, of Creative Strategies. "The big difference with the Apple TV is it also connects your personal content to your TV and makes the TV experience more personal."
Currently, Apple TV offers 52 different content apps such as Netflix (NFLX), MLB.TV, Showtime Anytime and HBO GO, which requires a subscription to HBO. Consumers can also use the device to buy and rent TV shows and movies via their iTunes accounts.
Since the first version of the Apple TV went on sale in 2007, Apple has let the device retain a second- or even third-billing status in terms of emphasis in the company's product line. The 25 million Apple TVs sold to date suggest that the device has sold almost twice as many units as its nearest competitor, Roku, said Forrester's McQuivey.
McQuivey also said that despite the increasing popularity of smart TVs, streaming apps operate better on devices such as Apple TV. No wonder then that Apple continues to invest in such technologies.
Yet even though the price of Apple TV was reduced along with the teaser of HBO NOW, Cook must still grapple with "the box vs. panel question," said Piper Jaffray media analyst Gene Munster, of Piper Jaffray. An Apple television product remains the next logical next step for the maker of the iPhone.
"[Tim] Cook seems to be reminding us it's just the beginning," Munster said. "I believe design is a core feature for Apple, which keeps pushing me back to the panel being the future."