Television network HBO have announced that they are to launch a stand-alone online streaming service from next year. The network unveiled the potentially game-changing move on Wednesday.

Michelle Fairley
Michelle Fairley, a cast member of HBO's 'Game of Thrones'. Coming to a streaming service soon.

Obviously, viewers have started to consume television shows increasingly through non-cable subscription services such as YouTube and Netflix for some time, and it’s been something that the traditional networks have known about for some years now. Until now, households have retained their expensive subscriptions despite this trend because of access to live sports and for HBO’s huge range of successful shows like ‘Game of Thrones’.

However, HBO’s move could alter the financial viability of maintaining cable subscriptions for many viewers faced with tightening household budgets. As with most pricing and business model revolutions, once one makes a move the others will follow, meaning that the current cable system could become antiquated and expensive over the coming years.

HBO’s chief executive Richard Plepler made the announcement in an investor meeting held by its parent company Time Warner. However, he did not offer any more details, such as content or price. He was also at pains to emphasise that the proposed streaming model would complement the existing cable system rather than explode it altogether. It’s been no secret, though, that HBO hasn’t been happy with its cable partners as they feel they don’t do a very good job at promoting their shows.

More: James Marsden given a role in HBO’s forthcoming ‘Westworld’

More: 'Game of Thrones' vs. 'The Sopranos'

Currently, HBO offers its content exclusively to cable companies for large fees, which are passed on to the consumer via $10-$20 per month subscription fees to add HBO to their cable bundles. So, a streaming service with its own set of charges would effectively ‘unbundle’ the existing system.

HBO announced a deal back in May with Amazon Prime to let Amazon users watch a number of HBO films, miniseries and shows. However, Wednesday’s announcement amounts to an intention to go head-to-head with streaming services like Netflix.

It will certainly be interesting to hear more details about HBO’s intentions and see the ramifications of this on the wider industry.