AT&T Now Throwing In HBO For Free To ‘Unlimited Plus’ Subscribers

The battle for unlimited data customers continues to heat up. Only weeks after dropping its price on “Unlimited Plus” plans, AT&T is now giving these subscribers free HBO, even if they don’t have an AT&T or DirecTV pay-TV plan.

It’s important to note this offer is only for Unlimited Plus subscribers, not the lower-cost Unlimited Choice (and certainly not the handful of people still clinging on to their unlimited AT&T data plans from 2007).

But for Plus subscribers, AT&T will provide free HBO in a variety of ways:

• If you have HBO through DirecTV, DirecTV Now, or AT&T U-Verse, you’ll no longer be billed for the channel.

• If you have DirecTV, DirecTV Now, or U-Verse but don’t currently subscribe to HBO, it will soon be added to your package free of charge.

• If you don’t have DirecTV, DirecTV Now, or U-Verse, AT&T says you’ll still be able to access HBO Go for free. We’ve asked AT&T to clarify what login credentials a subscriber would use to authenticate their HBO Go access; we’ll update when we hear back.

So Is This A Good Deal?

An Unlimited Plus plan starts at $95/month ($90 if you sign up for AutoPay), and that doesn’t include the monthly fee for your phone or any taxes and other fees.

There are less-expensive unlimited data plans. AT&T’s own Unlimited Choice is $30/month less than Plus (though data speeds and video quality are restricted). T-Mobile charges $70/month (to AutoPay users) for one line on its unlimited plan; and that price is now inclusive of most taxes and fees. Sprint goes as low as $50/month for a single unlimited line, but that’s only for new customers. Even Verizon, which has long been the most expensive wireless provider, has an $80/month unlimited plan.

For DirecTV and U-Verse subscribers, Unlimited Plus has the added benefit of a $25/month bill credit for those pay-TV services. That reduction on your overall TV/phone bill may be worth it. If these same subscribers are also already paying for HBO, that’s up to another $15/month knocked off their total spending.

In short: If you’re already paying for DirecTV and HBO, an Unlimited Plus plan may be something worth looking into. If you’re just looking to get HBO while saving money, you may want to looking into combining a lower-cost data plan and separately adding HBO Now for $15.

Today’s announcement is an indication of AT&T’s increasing confidence that its pending merger with Time Warner — the parent company of HBO — will be approved. It’s unlikely that the telecom giant would be so willing to give away premium video content if it didn’t expect that HBO will soon become part of the family.

If AT&T is successfully able to use its newly acquired DirecTV and Time Warner assets to bolster its wireless business, it may put more pressure on similar mergers. In recent months, Verizon has reportedly expressed interest in acquiring Charter (which itself just purchased Time Warner Cable), while Sprint has been greasing the regulatory wheels for a potential mega-merger of its own.