Wow, HBO wasn't whistling Dixie earlier this year when the new season of their most popular show was premiering and they insisted they were working diligently on making their content more available, between the Amazon deal and now this.
The reason is simple: because Game of Thrones.
While it's still not hitting Sopranos in traditional ratings, between the HBOGO and DVR ratings it's estimated it's audience right up there with the largest scripted TV network show right now (beating BBT) - if you factor in pirating it's easily the most watched scripted television show currently in production worldwide, period.
Not only that, but the merchandising is making HBO a bundle right now - they can afford to take this route. Truth be told, I doubt the cable companies cared much - HBO is a huge PITA for them post-GoT, because folks sign up for three months just to watch it then drop it, and they clog the phone centers with "retention" calls to a huge degree trying to worm free HBO out of them for whatever complaint (which usually gets you 3 months, same length as a season).
I'm not a white hat, but I'm not a "download everything free mwhahahaha world owes me anyway" type either. That said - this pretty much takes any "valid" excuse away from pirating the show - and those that still do so are really crapping on the content. I know it won't change most, or even many, folks doing this - but if ever there was a time to support something financially, it's here. The money paid to HBO for subscriptions pays for these shows and keeps them on the air. There are no commercials, no subsidizing with other network divisions, etc. - this is as "real" and direct as it gets for directly supporting traditional content.
FWIW, this was my final impetus. I've been ready to dump cable for two years now (and if you knew how much I love TV you would find the notion itself shocking), but in the end, it was ease of access to HBO, Dallas on TNT (which just got canned), and Nick at Night - besides the "it's already installed" convenience factor - that are why I hadn't cut yet. With HBO accessible on it's own, Nick at Night isn't going to cut it for $150/month. All told, once I get alternate internet, Hulu, HBO, TiVo, etc. I'm going to be paying more like $80 a month for content, which is just fine with me (especially since I can cut those bills if need be or desire wanes much easier than just having to get rid of everything like you do with cable).
So props to HBO for taking the leap - I'll be signing up on day one.